Opening Ceremony of 2017-2018 Academic Year Takes Place at Presidential Complex

September 26, 2017 / Presidential Complex-Ankara


The opening ceremony of the 2017-2018 academic year took place under the auspices of CoHE, with the participation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Presidential Complex.


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


President Erdoğan announced the names of the research universities that were selected under the "Mission Differentiation and Specialization Aimed at Regional Development Project". 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.


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 held at the Presidential Complex.


President Saraç noted that they tried their best to repair the damages caused by the terrorist organization, which had infiltrated into Turkish universities, after the treacherous coup attempt that took place on July 15, 2016. He said that they restored the peace and security in universities.


He mentioned the activities of CoHE such as the Mission Differentiation and Specialization Aimed at Regional Development Project, 100/2000 CoHE Doctoral Scholarship Project, CoHE supports aimed at the fields of engineering and fundamental sciences, special student status for the wives and children of martyrs, establishment of Quality Board that has gained administrative and financial autonomy, YOKDIL exams, major changes in ALES and easy access for disabled students and said:


"The activities for "Forming the Higher Education Area of the Islamic World" and "CoHE Excellence Awards" were high on the agenda and most of them were finalized. I would like to specifically point out that the occupation rate for the fields of fundamental sciences, which we sincerely believe are of utmost importance for the future of Turkey, has reached 100% this year. We will also establish honors classes for fundamental sciences. We consider it as a new and exciting project for fundamental sciences.


As for international relations, we made visits and received guests in order to have academic, strategic and employment-oriented cooperation and explain the 15 July coup attempt to the international academic community. We have shaped our international relations not with a simple understanding for benefits but with humanitarian and conscientious policies.


We also took another important step. A major reform, which would provide solutions for many chronic problems of higher education, was carried out silently after the Grand National Assembly of Turkey adopted the proposals of CoHE for the radical construction of higher education policies in June 2017. I would like to express my gratitude, in your presence, to the Minister of National Education, the Minister of Development, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Finance, all the other members of our governments, the Prime Minister in particular, for adopting our proposals and supporting us."


CoHE President Saraç noted that the topic of "research universities", which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan laid emphasis on in the opening ceremony of the academic year the previous year, was the most important topic among their goals for the 2017-2018 academic year and said, "Research universities are our main goals that will help us take the achievements earned in the history of the Republic of Turkey further while the academia integrates the young generations into the system for the development of Turkey."


CoHE President stated that a research university is an institution that has determined a mission and strategic roadmap and can carry out its work discipline in accordance with that plan. He underlined that it would not only aim for excellence in research but also aim for the best result in the production, transfer and sharing of education and knowledge.


CoHE President Saraç said that he sincerely believed that Turkish higher education system which had improved greatly in recent years would take the long-awaited leap with this project and said:


"I would like to say that we also took very important steps towards the internationalization of Turkish higher education. The number of international memorandums of understanding the new CoHE has signed at ministerial level in the last three years is almost twice the number of memorandums of understandings signed in 32 years. CoHE started to grant scholarships to international students through a new concept that was implemented for the first time in Turkey. We, as CoHE, are now carrying out international research projects. We select target countries and make agreements for various purposes. All these efforts will provide important contributions to the visibility and power of Turkey in the international arena.


We know that Turkish universities are among the most important institutions that will give us, the state and nation, strength. We sincerely agree with your statement. A university that is detached from the public, cities, and the values and problems of the people cannot be beneficial to neither its own students nor to the country. We wanted to reward the efforts that will contribute to the strong future of the state and the country as we believe that successful people will do their best if their efforts are appreciated. These awards simply indicate that we value every individual of Turkish academia who works for our country which we deeply love."


CoHE President said that they, as the academic community, were committed to supporting the considerable efforts that Turkey has taken towards its development to overcome the challenges of the rapidly changing world. He concluded his speech by saying that they took strength from the guidance and support of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in all their projects and goals.


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


President Erdoğan began his speech by saying that he hoped the event, which was hold for the first time the previous year, would be held every year and wished the best for all academics and students in the new academic year.


He reinforced that the mission differentiation and specialization is one of the ways to enhance the quality of the higher education system, noting that he announced the names of five pilot universities chosen for regional development within the scope of the project that had been carried out under the coordination of CoHE.


President Erdoğan noted that research universities that would represent Turkey in the highest level in the international arena had to be selected and supported privately. He added that Turkey had to gain a stronger position in the international arena.


He said that they also needed to establish a quality board for higher education, another topic that he emphasized in the previous event. He continued:


"I am pleased to say that we have reached an important milestone in all these topics. We determined some research universities within the scope of the mission differentiation and specialization project. Now, I would like to announce the names of these universities in alphabetical order: Ankara University, Boğaziçi University, Erciyes University Gazi University, Gebze Technical University, Hacettepe University, Istanbul University, Istanbul Technical University, Izmir Institute of Technology and Middle East Technical University. The universities that are in the reserve list are as follows: Çukurova University, Ege University, Selçuk University, Uludağ University and Yıldız Technical University. I want to remind the research universities that they were given the important task of achieving our goals in the field of higher education."


President Erdoğan stated that he had been closely following the innovative works of CoHE that would take universities to a level where they could compete with other universities in the world and said:


"I believe that the problems related to the planning of higher education programs, quotas and vocational schools will be solved as the Council of Higher Education will be in charge of the coordination. Important steps are also taken for the cooperation between universities and the private sector which has not reached the desired level. We paved the way for the establishment of vocational schools in organized industrial zones in order to promote training at workplaces in the field of science and engineering. In fact, we brought up these topics to the agenda 15-20 years ago. However, it took a long time for them to be implemented. Many arrangements in developed countries such as technology transfer offices, sabbatical leaves and the employment of postdoctoral researchers have started to be implemented in Turkey. I would like to thank the Council of Higher Education and all related ministries that has contributed to the process. We are ready to take steps to solve the other issues of Turkish universities. In return, we have a request from the universities. We want them to speed up the production of science and contribute to the development of Turkey more. When CoHE informs the government and the public about the developments by presenting the scientific performances of Turkish universities objectively, the projects will be carried out smoothly."


President Erdoğan emphasized that it was especially necessary to conduct activities aimed at enhancing the quality of teachers and stated that they must set out an action plan after discussing it with the Ministry of National Education. "We are looking for new ways when we cannot get the results we want in education and training. Even though we have changed the examination system so many times, we are yet to please teachers, students and their parents. We cannot think of solving these problems like a mathematical operation. It is sociological. It is clearly seen that we could not get the results we wanted about the curriculum and textbooks despite the last changes. We have to solve this issue one way or another," he said.


President Erdoğan pointed out that one of the issues that needed to be emphasized was the quality of teachers and noted that CoHE's project that provides high quality education for the most successful students in fundamental sciences, mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology was a step taken for this purpose.


President Erdoğan also stated that it would be beneficial to come up with new approaches that would facilitate the workload of students related to the Higher Education Examination (YGS) and thanked CoHE President for the goods news he has given in his speech.


CoHE President Saraç and some students from Istanbul University, Ardahan University, Konya University, Necmettin Erbakan University, Hacettepe University and Bilkent University presented a bouquet of flowers to President Erdoğan on behalf of all the students.


Following the ceremony, President Erdoğan presented certificates to the rectors of the research universities that were announced within the scope of the "Mission Differentiation and Specialization Aimed at Regional Development Project". The Council of Higher Education launched the project after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave instructions about it in the opening ceremony of the 2016-2017 academic year.


Ankara University, Boğaziçi University, Erciyes University, Gazi University, Gebze Technical University, Hacettepe University, Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul University, Izmir Institute of Technology and Middle East Technical University were chosen as research universities and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan presented certificates to the rectors of these universities.


The award ceremony of the CoHE Excellence Awards, which the Council of Higher Education realized in order to encourage the studies, projects, theses and activities related to community service which are carried out through scientific studies by universities, was held for the first time.


President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan presented the awards. They were given in two categories: Individual Awards and Institutional Awards. The Individual Awards were given in Social and Human Sciences, Science and Engineering and Health Sciences. The Institutional Awards were given in Community Service, Regional Development, University-Private Sector and International Cooperation.