Hammering in a love of learning

July 11, 1997

THE Turkish metal workers' union is to open its own university near Ankara. Classes at the Turkish Metalworkers' University and Union Academy will begin at the next semester if the authorities give the green light.

Union chairman, Mustafa Ozbek, said that Turkish trade unions placed a lot of importance on education. "Now is not the time to await decisions on primary, secondary and higher education from the government. We will apply to the Higher Education Authority (YOK) and do everything necessary to receive the go-ahead from parliament."

The union estimates that 600 students will start at the preparatory school for the 1997/98 term. Thirty per cent of places will be allotted to children of union members, who will also receive a discount on the annual $3000 university fee. Scholarships will be provided for those high-achieving students whose parents are also union members.

"Our university will begin with five faculties - medicine, science, literature, economics, engineering - plus a sports academy," said Mr Ozbek. "So for the first time in the world there will be a university established by a union in order to provide university education to union members."

The union wants to expand the university after two years, to include campuses in Izmir, Bursa and Istanbul, where there are big populations of workers. Further expansion is envisaged after that.

The ownership and administration of universities by private bodies is not unusual in Turkey. Many leading business conglomerates have built universities in the past ten years.

Turkey's young population - more than 60 per cent is under 21 - means the country faces increasing pressure for places in higher education, so private universities are increasingly seen as an alternative to the state sector.

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