Opening Session of Vice Chancellors’ Forum Takes Place at Presidential Complex

July 26, 2017 / Ankara


The opening session of the "Vice Chancellors' Forum" which would be organized for two days by the Council of Higher Education in order to form a new higher education area among the Islamic countries and to establish collaborations accordingly was held under the auspices of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Presidential Complex.


In addition to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CoHE President Prof. Dr. M. A. Yekta Saraç, the administrators of ministries and public institutions, the Turkish Ambassadors to the Islamic countries, members of the Council of Higher Education, 120 university rectors from more than 30 Islamic countries, the rectors of state and foundation universities in Turkey and officials from CoHE also participated in the opening session of the forum entitled "Forming the Higher Education Area of the Islamic World".


President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CoHE President Prof. Dr. M. A. Yekta Saraç made speeches in the opening session of the forum organized with the aim of initiating institutional cooperation between Islamic countries without drifting away from the Bologna Process, establishing a strong network and forming a research area.

CoHE President Saraç began his speech by saying that they came together for the opening of the forum aimed at forming a new higher education area among the Islamic countries at the Presidential Complex of the Republic of Turkey, which is the symbol of the unity and prosperous future of Turkey, and presented his thanks to all rectors of the Islamic world and participants.


CoHE President noted that if CoHE would limit their perspective only to the geographical boundaries of Turkey, they knew that it would not be possible for Turkey to reach the scientific goals aimed at the Islamic world and the world. "We believe that the success of the Great Turkey as a determining actor in the international arena should also be supported by all the institutions of the country. Taking into consideration the scientific history of Turkey, CoHE decided to support the aim of being effective and productive in the international arena with the title ‘Forming a Higher Education Area of the Islamic World'," he said.


CoHE President underlined that close collaborations would also contribute to the settlement of crises in the Islamic World, emphasizing that there would be many opportunities after the formation of a common high education area.


President Saraç said that CoHE made some important adjustments with the guidance of the President of the Republic of Turkey in order to include young Syrians who were left out of the higher education system into the system and added, "14,000 young Syrians have been receiving higher education. In addition, over 400 Syrian academics have become a part of Turkish universities and the world of science. However, we are also aware of the fact that the contribution would have been more different and effective if the exchange of faculty members and students and the academia of the Islamic countries had had a closer relation."


CoHE President Saraç noted that joint graduate qualifications framework, common quality assurance system, common credit transfer system, qualifications and recognition of diplomas were the topics that would be discussed by the rectors of the Islamic world and said:


"With the common higher education system to be formed among the Islamic countries in this manner, the mobility of students and graduates will be possible. Thus, students will be able to spend certain periods of their education at a university of a different Islamic country without losing a period of study. This will lead to significant gains in many aspects, primarily academic and cultural gains.


Joint degree programs which are considered as a higher level of mobility are also among the topics that will be discussed in this forum. This topic is among the priorities of CoHE. Thanks to these programs, students can have two or even three diplomas within the same duration of study.


Initiatives to be launched in this manner will not be limited to student exchange and education process. The exchange of faculty members and researchers will also contribute to the process of increasing cooperation. This will contribute to the power of the Islamic world in science."


CoHE President Saraç noted that when they looked at the maps that showed the partnerships of the scientific world in research today, it was seen that the Islamic region was very weak in scientific cooperation and said:


"Even though the universities in the Islamic world are carrying out a lot of collaborative studies with the universities in the Western countries, they carry out a limited number of collaborative studies with each other. Overcoming this will also mean breaking the monopolies over science.


These monopolies are the obstacles that were deliberately placed before the Islamic countries in order to prevent them to be the pioneers in science and technology production. The national incomes of countries are directly related to the rankings of universities. Even though the Islamic world constitutes 16% of the world population, the ratio of the output of scientific works is 6.9% and the ratio of the exports of high technology products is 3.3%."


CoHE President Saraç said that the Mevlana Exchange Program which has been carried out by CoHE with the guidance of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan taught them that Islamic countries could realize international exchange programs and projects with their own arrangements and means. He emphasized that Turkey started to get results after realizing some programs and projects.


President Saraç noted that when they think of exchange programs, Erasmus is no longer the only exchange program that comes to mind and said, "A total number of 7137 faculty members and students have benefited from the Mevlana Exchange Program between the years of 2013-2017. 4576 faculty members and students that consist of 64% of the total number were exchanged among 26 Islamic countries. The Mevlana Exchange Program makes headway to make Turkish higher education the international pride of Turkish higher education and is also enriched with an exchange format based on common projects that have been currently carried out."


CoHE President Saraç concluded his speech by noting that he has full confidence that they could form a higher education system that will consider knowledge as the source of virtue for the happiness and welfare of people by using the common cultural values, the glorious history of science and the experience of sharing common problems of the Islamic world.


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


President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that he believed the conference would initiate a new process where problems related to higher education in the region were discussed and new opportunities for cooperation were developed and thanked CoHE President Prof. Dr. Yekta Saraç and his team for organizing the conference.


Erdoğan said that the essence of the Islamic civilization is brotherhood and solidarity and to stand together like the bricks of a wall and underlined that it is very painful to see that the Islamic world is on the agenda because of separation instead of unity and conflicts instead of peace.


He noted that Muslims are but brothers and that they will not allow borders to divide them and distances to disconnect them from each other. "If we look at it from this perspective, we can see that cultural, political, sectarian and ethnic differences among Muslims are not a handicap, but rather our greatest wealth and opportunity," he said.


"The old people would say ‘The spark of truth would come forth only after the clash of opinions,' said President Erdoğan, adding that the collocutor of that saying is the universities and academia.


He underlined that pointing to others as the source of their problems would not make them successful and that Muslims should look at themselves, in particular at their relationship with the sources of information, science and wisdom, to find out why they are in this situation.


President Erdoğan noted that the first command of Islam is ‘Iqra!' which means ‘Read!' and that it commands science, not ignorance. He pointed out that the average ratio allocated for education is 5,2% in the OECD countries and that that ratio is not even 1% in the Islamic world. He said that their priority topics were education, health, law and security respectively when they took over the responsibility of administrating the government 15 years before in order to solve that problem.


Erdoğan reiterated that they allocated the highest share for education in the budget and stated that they had taken steps to establish a strong education infrastructure in every area, from classrooms to teachers, universities to dorms and scholarships and grants.


He asked for a favor of the university rectors in Turkey about a matter which he had talked with CoHE President Saraç. "What is the role of an assistant professor? Please take a look at this situation. It blocks people. In which country can you see that title? I did not see such mechanisms when I did a research on it. That title was created in order to occupy some people. It really creates a barrier for scholars. We need to overcome it and I believe we will," he said.


President Erdoğan requested CoHE President Saraç to transform the Mevlana Exchange Program into an ERASMUS-like or even more advanced exchange program for the higher education systems in the Islamic world and stressed that it is also important to give international recognition to the program by including the Islamic countries in the management of the program.


President said that the exchange program for academics and students should not be limited to that and that launching joint degree programs was also a requirement. "CoHE has over 250 joint degree programs with the universities in the Western countries. I ask this of CoHE President. I hope at least 15 Turkish universities would lead the way to launch joint/double degree programs on undergraduate and graduate level with the universities that have attended this meeting," he said.


He added that the Turkish Higher Education System has a strong organization with 7,3 million students and 150,000 academics including 75,000 individuals with doctoral degrees in 184 universities and noted that CoHE should share the knowledge and experience of Turkey with the higher education systems in the Islamic countries.


President Erdoğan pointed out that there are a handful of institutions from the Islamic countries in the ranking for the top 500 universities in the world, and that the most intelligent students from the Islamic societies are taken by the educational institutions in the Western countries.


He emphasized that those students also pay a big amount of money to those countries and said, "We expect them to return to their home countries and serve their own people after completing their academic studies. However, those who complete their studies do not return to their home countries most of the time and remain there. It is for sure that reasons such as not being able to abandon the lifestyles they have gotten used to influence their decision."


He concluded his address by saying that he believed that the Islamic world, as the umma of a prophet who first sat in the assembly of scholars before the assembly of dhikr when he went to a masjid, would start to rise from universities.


Following the opening session of the meeting, four panels entitled "Quality Framework and Quality Assurance", "Credit Transfer System and Mobility", "QA Agencies and Recognition and Equivalency" and "Joint/Dual/Double Degree Programs" were held at Bilkent Hotel and Conference Center.


Click here for the news article published on the official website of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey about the opening session of the Vice Chancellors' Forum.



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