Opening Ceremony of 2018-2019 Academic Year Takes Place at Presidential Palace

October 3, 2018 / Presidential Palace-Ankara


The opening ceremony of the 2018-2019 academic year took place under the auspices of CoHE, and with the participation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Presidential Palace.


The "CoHE Excellence Awards", the first academia awards in the history of higher education, were given out for the second time at the ceremony which was held at the Beştepe National Congress and Culture Center located at the Presidential Palace.


About 2,000 people including the rectors of all universities, related ministers, directors of related institutions, ambassadors, senior government officials, and some academics and students attended the ceremony.


The ceremony started with the concert of the Presidential Classical Turkish Music Choir. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CoHE President Prof. Dr. M. A. Yekta Saraç made speeches in the opening ceremony.


CoHE President Saraç began his speech by stating that they were honored to hold the opening ceremony in the presence of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the respectable ministers and top officials and added that he hoped that the opening ceremonies of the next academic years would be also held at the Presidential Palace. He emphasized that it was of high importance for the Turkish government institutions to work in unity under the leadership of the President so that Turkey, the only hope of many nations and countries that have been exploited for ages, could ensure victory in her endeavor against injustice while standing with justice.


He reiterated that they, as the Council of Higher Education, had planned and completed a lot of projects in the last four years by taking into account the priorities of Turkey and the global trends and said, "The presidential system provides an effective, smooth and quick operation ability within our higher education system. With the benefits of the new system, we, as the Council of Higher Education, aim to promote the goal of ‘Powerful Turkey' by turning the new legal arrangements on higher education into an opportunity and building a higher education based on continuous improvement towards perfection."


CoHE President noted that all projects, decisions and plans of CoHE promote the goal of a great and powerful Turkey that is independent in every field. He touched on the significance of the fact that they had successfully accomplished many projects, as they believed that the development of Turkey would only be possible through "high-quality knowledge" and "qualified human resources".


He noted that while other countries had been pursuing structural changes to promote mission differentiation and popularizing the research university model for the last 20 years, Turkey continued to adopt the one-type university model. "As the Council of Higher Education, we have started out the process upon your instruction and leadership and pioneered the legal processes and reshaped Turkish higher education around the "specialization" and "mission differentiation" concepts. We have identified the research universities of our country with a dynamic structure instead of a static one," said CoHE President, addressing the President.


He reiterated that another specialization strategy was the identification of Turkish regional development universities by drawing the newly-established universities to the competitive arena and that five universities were selected to contribute to their regions by intensifying their activities in the fields of agriculture, livestock farming, geothermal, textile, and ceramic the previous year. He talked about the four main projects, namely "Mission Differentiation and Specialization Aimed at Regional Development Project", "100/2000 Doctoral Scholarship Programme", "Establishment of Quality Board" and "Internationalization in Higher Education", in which they had made structural changes in higher education.


He emphasized that the principal focus of education and training is on the student and said that they had initiated scholarship programs such as "CoHE Achievement Scholarships" and "CoHE-TEBIP Honours Classes" that are unique, success-based, and care about their national priorities.


"CoHE has been in a new and innovative path for the last four years. It has carried out many projects. We have introduced many new notions like specialization, priority areas, mission differentiation, target-based internationalisation, vertical growth, independent quality council, research universities, regional development targeted universities to the scientific and educational environment of our country and we have given life to these notions. We are working to change, not to be changed. We are changing the standard university model, the method of student and faculty exchange programs, and we are prioritizing some areas while attributing equal value to all scientific fields. Through an innovative approach, we are changing the scholarship programs conducted in the same manner for decades; we are changing the concept and format of doctoral degree via the doctoral programs at the national level.


Today is a new day. In order not to repeat ourselves, we set new goals and topics. This year's topic will be open access and open innovation studies considering the new transition in universities to keep up with the current digital era, and correspondingly, paying attention to the studies of world universities. We want our students to have a certain digital literacy level. We started to plan using the facilities of digitalization in many fields of higher education and transmitting the power of digitalization to every social layer. We want to achieve technological independence.


We will accelerate the digital transformation studies with a big project this year. I am sure that we will have your strong support to this project as was the case for the previous ones."


He reiterated that they had infinite belief that their academic community would contribute enormously to their national development and support their technological independence move under the leadership and support of the President and said, "Once again, I would like to emphasize in the presence of Your Highness that, being fully aware of their national history, protecting our nation's values, getting strength from their faith, and being open to the world, our higher education institutions will work harder today than yesterday to educate patriotic youth walking under the light of science, and will show the maximum effort to reach the 2023 targets you have set."


Click here to read the full transcript of the speech made by CoHE President Prof. Dr. M. A. Yekta Saraç. (In Turkish)


President Erdoğan began his speech by wishing the best for all academics and students in the new academic year and added that their goal was to establish and install a system whereby the students would be able to get into a university without receiving private support from any organization or person other than the lessons at their schools.


President Erdoğan noted that the Turkish higher education system is at a very high level. "We have even crossed the borders of our country. There are 7 million 611 thousand students in Turkey. I asked about the number of enrolled students in Germany last week. ‘Three million,' they said. They have more inhabitants than us. We need to have more than two universities among the top 500 universities in the world. I want our lecturers to work more towards this goal. I hope we will have more universities in that ranking," he said.


President Erdoğan stated that the cram school system was completely abolished in Turkey and added: "Our citizens do not have to sell their cattle and bracelets to send their children to cram schools anymore. We will never allow parallel education systems."


"We will increase the amount of student loans next year"


President Erdoğan said that there are almost 640 thousand beds in the dormitories, which were established to solve housing problems, and said, "Our students always ask for a scholarship. Why don't you want to get student loans? It is also advantageous for you. These loans are given on condition that they pay them back after finding a job. I have some good news for students. We will increase the amount of student loans next year. We increased the amount of scholarship to 500 TL for bachelor's degree, 1000 TL for master's degree and 1500 for doctoral degree."


Highlighting Turkey's desire to launch a massive technology initiative through the Digital Transformation Office and with the support of the universities and private sector, President Erdoğan added that they also would establish career centers in all universities. "These centers, which will guide university students in their careers starting from their first year of study at university, will work in cooperation with the real sector," he said.


He emphasized that they also planned to carry out, through the Human resources Office, works that closely concern the future of university students. He underlined that moving into the talent management system will be the first step they will take in this scope.


He stated that they will ensure the most talented university graduates to be employed in the public or private sector by providing them with exclusive career opportunities and said, "We want to establish a centralized standard for foreign language education. To that end, the language proficiency exams of universities could be carried out through ÖSYM."


CoHE President Saraç and some students from Ankara University, Ankara University of Music And Fine Arts University, Atılım University, Ege University, Fırat University, Sabahattin Zaim Siirt University and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University presented a bouquet of flowers to President Erdoğan on behalf of all students.


Following the presentation of the flowers, the award ceremony of the "CoHE Excellence Awards", which the Council of Higher Education realized for the first time in the 2017-2018 academic year in order to encourage the studies, projects, theses and activities related to community service of universities that are carried out through scientific studies, was held for the second time.


President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CoHE President Prof. Dr. M. A. Yekta Saraç presented the awards. They were given in two categories: Individual Awards and Institutional Awards. The Individual Awards were givenin social and human sciences, science and engineering andhealth sciences. The Institutional Awards were given incommunity service, regional development,university-private sector and international cooperation.


Following the award ceremony, CoHE President Prof. Dr. M. A. Yekta Saraç presented a calligraphy work of a Quranic verse, which shows the importance that Islam places on science, and the book "The History of Osmanoğulları" by Âşık Paşazâde to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The book is the first book on Ottoman history by a known author and was prepared by CoHE President Prof. Dr. M. A. Yekta Saraç.