Protests over plans to split up Turkish universities

Plans to dismantle institutions including Istanbul University are part of efforts to exert more political control over academia, critics say

May 1, 2018
Istanbul Erdogan medical rector health sciences university anger
Source: istock

Hundreds of staff and students have joined protests against plans to split up Turkey’s oldest university.

Under a bill, approved by the Turkish parliament’s education commission, Istanbul University – which can trace its roots back to the 15th century – will be broken up, with some of its faculties transferred to the new İbni Sina University, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.

The move has been widely seen as an attack on the independence of Istanbul University, which has 80,000 students and 12 campuses, following claims by Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that several leading public universities are against “Turkish values”.

“What they are doing is tearing apart historical ties, abolishing shared values, cutting off roots...to control universities more easily,” said Raşit Tükel, who is head of the Turkish Medical Association.

“They want to manage the invaluable estates of the university through a divide and rule policy against faculties,” added Professor Tükel, a faculty member of the Cerrahpaşa School of Medicine, which is due to be separated from Istanbul University under the proposed reforms.

Protests against the plans took place in front of Istanbul University’s main gate at the city’s historic Beyazıt Square on 24 April, while students and university staff in the Turkish capital of Ankara have also held demonstrations against the bill.

Under the proposals, Gazi University, in Ankara, and Anadolu University in the Central Anatolian province of Eskişehir, will be among 13 universities split up, leading to the creation of 20 new universities.

More than 5,000 academics have now signed a petition against the plans, stating that the bill “attempts to split up and weaken several universities in Turkey, which have successfully contributed to science and education despite limited resources”.

“It has been discussed without notifying or consulting our universities’ legitimate units,” the petition stated, adding that “we cannot see any academic, financial or administrative reasons to split up our universities.”

Meanwhile, it has been reported that Mert Savrun, vice-rector of Istanbul University, has resigned from his post over the proposals.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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