‘Academic freedom is diminishing in Türkiye’

News About Turkey - NAT
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Thirty-nine academics from 13 universities, including Boğaziçi University, the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ/METU), Ankara University and Ege University, have released a report about “Restructuring Higher Education in Türkiye.”

Speaking at a press conference in Ortaköy, İstanbul, Prof. Üstün Ergüder, the former rector of Boğaziçi University, said the situation of the universities was much better in the 1990s than today.

“There was a revolt in 1992 and the universities began electing their own rectors. Thus, academic performance and autonomy in universities have increased, but in recent years, YÖK [Council of Higher Education] has become much more dominant in universities and academic autonomy has gradually decreased,” he said.

The YÖK was founded in 1981 by the military government that took over after the 1980 coup d’état.

“The report aims to prevent the diminishing of academic autonomy and the reducing quality of the universities,” he said. “We hope that it will contribute to a change.”

“YÖK should be abolished”

Prof. Taner Bilgiç talked about a July workshop on which the report was based, saying, “The YÖK should be abolished and a new framework law should be made for the restructuring of universities.”

“The total number of university students in Türkiye exceeds 8 million. However, only 2 million of them are in formal education at the undergraduate level. In other words, the number of undergraduate students required to be in school is 2 million. The majority of the students are enrolled in distance education or associate degree. The total number of universities in Turkey is 208; 75 of them are foundation universities and 129 are state universities.

“When we divide 2 million students into [the number of] universities, there are 2 thousand students per school. Taking into account that there are 182,000 academics, we see that the number of academic staff is not enough.

“It is proudly mentioned that there is a university in every province, but Türiye is the country with the highest number of unemployed universities among OECD countries.”

Academic autonomy

“The university should be able to make effective and independent decisions regarding its own academic structuring, study, standard setting, employment, management and all academic activities.

“In other words, if a university is going to establish a faculty, it must decide on its own. The basis of this is merit. You cannot manage a university by top-down appointments. No rector is sent to any university in the world, saying, ‘We found a great person for you.’

“A university also determines its own research areas. In addition, the rectors should not be overly centralized and should share their powers. The powers should be shared with various boards and commissions, and bottom-up and horizontal decision-making mechanisms should be established in a way that limits the excessively centralized powers of the rector and other top executives.

“If the rector does not share his powers and there is no supervision, we come across a dictator in the current situation, and this has been the case for 40 years. Mechanisms should be established so that the boards and commissions can audit the decisions and functioning of the administration and hold them accountable.”

The report was also submitted to the opposition parties on December 5, he added. (RT/VK)

By: Ruken Tuncel


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