Number of universities in Turkey is continuously increasing, at the mean time the quality of education is decreasing. While 5,904 academicians and 1,408 administrative staff, 7,312 in total, were dismissed from the universities by the state of emergency decrees, university autonomy and academic freedom is still being suppressed by the government. The trade unions in education sector and the political parties are uneasy with these developments.

Ayça ONURALMIŞ

According to the official statistics of the Council of Higher Education (CHE/ YÖK), the system of higher education in Turkey, which at the moment consists of 206 universities, 1,785 faculties, 464 colleges, 996 vocational schools of higher education and 708 institutes, has been growing year by year. But the quantitative growth is inversely related with the quality of education. While the student quotas increase every year, the problem of accommodation is getting severe. There is 629,762 state dormitory capacity for a 7,5 millions high students, meaning that there is only 1 bed for 12 students. The students who can enroll to these dormitories have to live in poor conditions; the rest is left to the mercy of communities and foundations. Moreover, 69,731 students are in jail. According to June 2018 statistics of Turkish Statistical Institute, the ratio of unemployed university graduates was calculated as 12,7 per cent. This ratio, which is two times the OECD average, shows that almost 1 million graduates are unemployed. 28 per cent of all unemployed people are of university graduates.

UNIVERSITIES HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO THE PALACE”

In “The Higher Education Report” published by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), it is suggested that, especially after the JDP’s ‘at least one university for every province’ policy, the universities “have become the focus of the government’s system of partisan favoritism, and its authoritarian, market-oriented, racist, sexist and conservative policies”. The report states that, “Thus people who behave indeed as civil servants rather than scientists use the power relations in the universities as tools of suppression against the critical and dissident academics and students, after they come to power in the universities”, the report points out that “The most serious strike against the universities during the state of emergency was the removal of rector elections and substitution of it with the direct assignment system. By this arrangement the government totally ignores the will of the universities and the universities are completely subjected to the Palace. The merit and academic qualification have been substituted by the corrupted relationships and the culture of obedience”.

ORGANIZING THE JDP’S HEGEMONIC POWER”

The critiques in the PDP’s report are also confirmed by the trade unions opinions. Although we have asked time and again, the pro-government trade union Eğitim-Bir-Sen has not presented its take on the subject; the other trade unions in the education sector are complaining of the system. Eğitim-Sen’s (the Unions of Education and Science Laborers -affiliated to the Confederation of Public Laborer’s Unions) General Secretary of Higher Education and Education Özgür Bozdoğan, in his statement to halagazeteciyiz.net, said that “with the JDP government’s ‘At Least One University for Every Province’ project, the number of universities in Turkey is continuously increasing, but the quality of education is decreasing”. Remarking that the nameplates for universities were hanged on places with no academic and administrative staff, libraries, necessary equipments, infrastructure and dormitories, Bozdoğan said that “the motivation behind this unplanned course of events is to contribute to the economy of the province of the newly founded university and to organize the hegemonic power of the JDP in the academy too by new staffing areas”.

According to Bozdoğan, the state of the universities today is a result of Turkey’s political atmosphere. Bozdoğan added that without embodying democracy, strengthening the fundamental rights and freedoms, functionalizing the universal principles of law, there was no possibility of improving the quality of universities.

THE JDP’S LABORATORY OF THE ‘NEW TURKEY’

The major social institutions and sectors that were targeted in particular by the state of emergency decrees were universities and academics. In this period, 15 non-state universities (established by various foundations) were shut down, 401 deans, of whom 176 were at post in state universities and 401 were at post in other universities, were forced to resign. By the state of emergency decrees, 7,312, consisting of 5,904 academics and 1,408 administrative staff, were dismissed from the universities.

Orhan Yıldırım

The Chairman of Eğitim-İş (the Workers of Education Union) Orhan Yıldırım said that, by the state of emergency decrees, without no evidence and basis, the progressive intellectuals and revolutionist scientists were dismissed. Stating that the universities that were supposed to be sanctuaries of science are on course of being transformed into JDP’s laboratories for the ‘New Turkey’, asseted that, “The way to say ‘Stop!’ to this course is to act in concert; all the components of the universities, should sonorously utter these rightful demands all together. The necessary conditions for universities to exist, and fulfil their social functions are free thought and autonomy. To turn universities into democratic and autonomic institutions, the Council of Higher Education, which is one remnant of the September 12 Coup, must be abrogated and the decisions about the universities must be based on their own components. We will, incessantly and till the end, continue our struggle against dismissal of progressive academics, against appointment of administrators who are representatives of ignorance, and seizure of vested rights by the pro-government actors.”

UNIVERSITIES HAVE TO BE AUTONOMOUS”

The Chairman of Türk Eğitim-Sen [Turkish Education Union] Talip Geylan remarked that, “University autonomy and academic freedom is under attack”. Emphasizing that the reason why the universities can not catch up with the change and transformation is the authoritarian and suppressive way of the administration, Geylan told that: “The centralist administration mentality should be abandoned; the universities have to be autonomous. Improvements in academic and fiscal freedoms would contribute improvements in scientific works, and promote the academics. The leading factors that have direct negative effects on the autonomous structure of universities are the lack of a democratic election and appointment procedure, the exclusion of university staff from the process, and the appointments of administrators, especially those of rectors, by the way of imposition from the top. The universities should not be overshadowed by the political actors and public administration.”

THE SUPRESSION IN THE LAST 16 YEARS ARE UNPRECEDENTED”

One of Eğitim-Sen’s founders and its first chairman, Ankara Deputy, the Republican People’s Party’s Vice Chairman, responsible for education policies, Yıldırım Kaya told that universities were like oasis in desert in the countries lacing proper democracy. He said that the universities in Turkey had been never free in the strict sense. Stating that the suppressions in the last 16 years were unprecedented, Kaya said that “The universities have completely lost their social responsibilities, scientific research and spheres of freedom. A huge brain drain has took place, thousands of academics have gone, and yet thousands of them have been banished by dismissal.”

Noting that it is not possible for a university to succeed if it has no academic cadres, no enough funds for scientific research and is disposed of freedoms, Kaya made warning that “You cannot carry Turkey into future by controlling universities. Maybe you can expand your period of reign for the moment, but we would all lose our future.”

Translation: Aydın Ördek