THE ROLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN INFLUENCING THE POLITICS OF THE MIDDLE EAST: A COMPARATIVE EXAMINATION OF THE RUSSIAN AND TURKISH HIGHER EDUCATION MODELS
Higher education has seen an unprecedented global development which led to its increased political, economic and cultural role. As knowledge and the capacity to apply it in practice become the strategic resources in contemporary time. Today, the role of higher education is increasingly growing in the foreign policy of countries as a tool for soft power. Developing the country's soft power and a positive image abroad by working with foreign publics is now key to creating an enabling environment for its foreign policy strategies and international standing in general. This article discusses the impact of higher education as a soft power on foreign policy the case study of Russia and Turkey in the Middle East and North Africa. The concepts of soft power and public diplomacy have become the catchwords among Turkish and Russian foreign policy. Over the past twenty years, Russia's and Turkey's vision and understanding of soft power have developed. Starting by focusing on an image-heavy perspective of Russia's and Turkey's soft power tools development, one of the spheres in Russia and Turkey with a strong public diplomacy potential in terms of promoting direct and long-term people-to-people contacts is higher education. Russia and Turkey have a long history of higher education cooperation with foreign countries particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Positioning Russian higher education system as one of its soft power tools is not only an efficient way of boosting the country's attractiveness and global competitiveness, it is equally a key means of developing its most resource. Higher education is one of the soft power tools of Turkish foreign policy and to enhance the attractiveness it's in the middle east and north Africa. The article responds to the question, the extent to which higher education is a soft power on Russian and Turkish public diplomacy in the Middle East and North Africa.