Crisis leaves Turks begging for cash

June 15, 2001

Rectors of Turkey's state universities have held an emergency meeting to review the worsening situation in the sector since the February economic crisis, which resulted in 40 per cent devaluation.

In three months, inflation has doubled to more than 70 per cent, but funding for higher education has remained unchanged.

Kemal Guruz, head of Turkey's higher education authority held a meeting with the rectors in a bid to defuse their growing anger.

Following the meeting, Dr Guruz announced that a text had been agreed that addressed the short, medium and long-term needs of higher education. The document will be sent to the ministry of education.

He refused to give details of the document. When asked what would happen if the demands were not met, he said: "I am certain our government will do what it needs to do in the shortest possible time."

He issued a warning to rectors who might consider action in support their demands. Our rectors must never behave in such a way to disrupt the atmosphere of peace, tranquillity and academic freedom that exists in our universities."

But it is far from certain whether the government will be forthcoming with funds. Turkey is committed to austerity measures as part of an International Monetary Fund package and the government has warned that the higher education research fund could be abolished.

The rectors are strongly opposed to abolishing the fund. They argue that it will lead to further cuts in research. Dr Guruz tried to calm fears by saying that if the government did abolish the fund, it would probably be replaced by an alternative system.

Assistant professor Istar Gozaydin, of Istanbul's Technical University, said: "The research fund itself is not that important because most universities rely on private funds. But it is the thin end of the wedge, it will be followed by more cuts and things are impossible as it is - my salary does not even cover my rent."

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