EUA met with the Turkish Higher Education Council (YÖK) to discuss developments in the Turkish higher education sector following the attempted coup on 15 July 2016. The meeting took place at the EUA headquarters in Brussels on 6 September.
Present at the meeting were EUA President Rolf Tarrach, Secretary General Lesley Wilson, and EUA board members Stefano Paleari, Mari Sundli Tveit, and Gülay Doğu Barbarosoğlu.
The YÖK representatives included its President, Yekta Saraç, its Deputy President, Hasan Mandal, as well as Ahmet Çamsarı, Chair of the InterUniversity Council, Mahmut Ak, Rector of Istanbul University, Erkan İbiş, Rector of Ankara University and Sezer Şener Komsuoğlu, Adviser to the President of YÖK, former Rector of Kocaeli University and a member of EUA’s Research Policy Working Group.
EUA has been closely monitoring the developments in Turkey over the past year, and even more intensely since 15 July. It has also been engaged in direct dialogue with YÖK, an EUA member, since the coup attempt, and organised the meeting to promote clarity on recent developments.
“With 64 EUA member institutions and nearly seven million students, Turkey is an important part of the European Higher Education Area,” explained EUA President Rolf Tarrach. “It is in the interest of the entire sector to promote dialogue and to work together towards preserving the fundamental values that universities share.”
At the meeting, YÖK gave a presentation on the current situation in Turkey. EUA welcomed the transparency of the dialogue and the insights gained, especially the assurance that 1386 of the 1577 deans who resigned following the events of mid-July have been re-instated.
Of concern to EUA is not only the situation of the deans, but also that of other staff and students, and generally, how the higher education system will develop in the future. EUA will continue to monitor, also as it has been confirmed that as a part of the measures in the aftermath of the coup attempt, 2300 academics have been dismissed. This information has been published in the Turkish Official Journal.
EUA will continue to address this issue with its members, and also with other international partners, such as Scholars at Risk and the Magna Charta Observatory. Freedom of expression and academic freedom are core university values and of central concern to EUA. The Association insists and will continue to insist that no person should be dismissed without a proper investigation and the chance to defend oneself.
EUA would also like to stress the importance of maintaining this open exchange of views and information in order to build trust and cooperation. It will keep its commitment to safeguarding academic freedom and institutional autonomy and to supporting its members in Turkey in this regard.
In a follow-up to this exchange, it was agreed that YÖK representatives will discuss the situation in Turkey with the national rectors’ conferences during the upcoming EUA Council meeting scheduled for the end of October. EUA and YÖK are also planning to organise an event in Turkey in the near future to discuss common issues and to strengthen the exchange with individual Turkish universities.
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