Quality franchise in Turkey

January 19, 1996

It is unfortunate that Dorian Jones's article (THES, January 5) about our partnership in Turkey confuses Oxford Brookes's Turkish partners, Dogus Private Schools, with a "business conglomerate" and "media empire".

The Dogus construction company, to which he presumably refers, did once own a television channel but it is wholly unconnected with Dogus Private School which confines itself to running respected and well-established English language medium schools in Istanbul. Your reporter thus understates the educational credentials and experience of our partners, something which we consider of great value and importance.

The article highlights the views of Mehmet Ali Kircaslan, described as "YOK [higher education board] chairman". Yet Mr Kircaslan resigned that position last autumn to enter politics and has been replaced by Kemal Guruz.

Whether the previous chairman's statements reflected the collective view of YOK may be open to question; what is not is that Professor Guruz, YOK's current chairman, has taken a different line on the question of links between overseas universities and those bodies wishing to provide opportunities for the large number of Turkish students unable to gain access to the underfunded state higher education system.

In late November Professor Guruz made a speech to TUSIAD, an organisation of leading Turkish businessmen and industrialists, on "The Management of Education and Quality". In that speech he spoke very positively of the role of private sector university provision in Turkey and the need for the state to encourage such activity, and also identified a role for franchises by foreign universities.

The matter is therefore best seen as one of differing views over the best way to organise and regulate this necessary and valuable development.

The notion that British and other foreign universities are acting illegally is difficult to reconcile with the fact that YOK under Mr Kircaslan apparently tried but failed to persuade either the Turkish ministry of education or the courts of the merit of this claim: only after such attempts did YOK write to the foreign universities seeking to put pressure on them directly.

In all our overseas partnerships we have been scrupulous in applying tough quality assurance procedures which in many ways anticipated those of the recent Higher Education Quality Council Code of Practice.

We have seen this as important both for safeguarding the good name of Oxford Brookes University and for protecting the interests of students enrolled on collaborative courses, for many of whom this is the only opportunity for gaining access to higher education.

CLIVE BOOTH Vice chancellor Oxford Brookes University

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