A former university employee in Turkey has called for the global higher education community to do more to support administrators at risk after she was forced to leave her institution.
The administrator, who was head of academic partnerships at a Turkish university and wishes to remain anonymous, said that there are organisations that help scholars and students who are under threat but there “is nothing for administrative staff”.
Her former university was one of 15 Turkish institutions that was shut in 2016 and 2017 because of its alleged links to the Gülen movement, which is blamed for the failed military coup in July 2016.
After she was forced to leave the university, she said that she searched for a job in Turkey for six months but no one would employ her. She said that she was told by universities that they were worried about hiring her due to her affiliation with the closed institution.
She eventually found a job in the Netherlands helping Dutch universities recruit international students, but said that she only secured this through a friend.
“People are not asking about people’s skills anymore if you are coming from a fragile university in this situation. We are losing our identities in a way,” she told Times Higher Education at the European Association for International Education’s annual conference.
“If a government sees a threat to the country, of course I believe there should be precautions taken. However, punishing the people who are not related with anything, just because they happen to be working there – I think that’s not fair.”
Emily Borzcik, senior programme officer at the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund, said that the scheme works only with academics and “mostly [with] professors who have PhDs and are engaging in teaching and/or research”.
“What qualifies somebody for the programme is that they are, most of the time, affiliated with an academic institution and they are conducting scholarly research,” she said.