Numan Özcan – 2000-2001 Academic Year Jean Monnet Scholar

School / Department: University of Westminster, MA International Business and Management

Institution and Position: International Labour Organization (ILO) Director of the Nepal Country Office

Could you tell us a little about yourself? How has your career been shaped so far?

I’ve obtained my undergraduate degree from the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Boğaziçi University. After graduating from this department, I wanted to take a job that I thought could be more beneficial to people, rather than the private sector or banking sector, which were very common at that time, and therefore I started working at the department of foreign relations in a labour union confederation. Throughout the 25 years since that day, my entire working life has actually been shaped on improving rights in working life, and ensuring that people work in better, dignified jobs.

During my work at the union, I was found eligible for a Jean Monnet Scholarship in 2000 and went to United Kingdom to pursue a master’s degree in international business management. Upon my return, I had the chance to be directly involved in the European Union (EU) process. At that time, I started to work in charge of employment and social projects at the newly established Central Finance and Contracts Unit to manage European Union projects. One year later, in 2005, the year Türkiye began its accession negotiations to the EU, I transferred to the Turkish Delegation to the European Union and took part in the social policy and employment chapter of these negotiations on the European Union side. At the same time, I was involved in the development and implementation of employment, social policy and education projects of the European Union which were being carried out in Türkiye. I also took part in the European Union cohesion works regarding work life.

At the beginning of 2015, I was appointed as the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Director of the Türkiye Office. In this position, I have worked to ensure that international working standards are acknowledged and applied by Türkiye and also to ensure that social justice and decent jobs are available for everyone living in Türkiye.

Since April 2023, I have been serving as Director of the Nepal Country Office of ILO. I am also proud to be the only Turkish person to be appointed as director of a country office in ILO’s history of 104 years.

Could you give some information about the university where you studied with the Jean Monnet Scholarship and the subject you worked on?

Since I had both undergraduate and master’s degree in international relations field in Türkiye, I wanted to pursue my master’s degree in UK in a slightly different field this time. Therefore, I went to the Universtiy of Westminster to study international business and human resources management.

I enrolled in elective courses especially on international human resources management. These studies have been very beneficial for me in my work in the field of employment and social policies in the following years.

What are the effects of the education you completed through the Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme on your view of the European Union?

The biggest contribution of this programme to me was that thanks to this programme I had the opportunity to live in a European Union country and experience life, working conditions and education there in person.

Later in my working life, I had the opportunity to work both on the Turkish side and the European Union side in the process of Türkiye’s accession to the EU. In addition to the direct contribution of the knowledge I learned at school, I, in fact, reaped the great benefit of being in an international environment, doing homework and group work in a team. Although I graduated from a university with English as the language of instruction, I managed to overcome my shyness about speaking foreign languages during my time of study in England.

In the following years of my life, this gave me a unique experience in working with foreigners in an international environment, both in my duties in the European Union Delegation to Türkiye and in ILO within the United Nations. Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme has, in a sense, completely fulfilled its function and prepared me for my future career.

What would you like to recommend to Jean Monnet scholarship candidates?

My advice would be to consider the university not just as an educational institution, but as an opportunity to observe life in a European Union country in the best way possible. I suggest that they make the most of the time they have been there to the fullest, as an experience of studying together and living together in an international environment with people from different cultures. I would like to remind my friends that while the knowledge learned at university is important, what really matters is the acquisition of skills, talents and experience.