Winners of 2020 Barrier-free University Awards Announced

June 24, 2020 / Ankara

The Barrier-free University Awards ceremony, which is organized to raise awareness of the access of individuals with disabilities to places, educational opportunities and sociocultural activities in higher education institutions and to disseminate good practices, was held through video conference due to the coronavirus this year.

Minister of Family, Labour and Social Services, Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk, President of the Council of Higher Education, Prof. M. A. Yekta Saraç, President of the Strategy and Budget Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey, Naci Ağbal, CoHE Executive Board Member and Coordinator of CoHE’s Working Group for Students with Disabilities, Prof. Zeliha Koçak Tufan, Executive Board members of CoHE, the rectors of the universities that have received the most awards, officials from the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services, and heads of the departments responsible for students with disabilities attended the ceremony.

At the beginning of the ceremony, CoHE Executive Board Member and Coordinator of CoHE’s Working Group for Students with Disabilities, Prof. Zeliha Koçak Tufan, made a presentation about the awards.

CoHE President Prof. M. A. Yekta Saraç pointed out that the higher education systems in Turkey and in the world had been facing with significant changes during the pandemic and said, “During this period, we attach special importance to the fact that Turkish universities adopt a student-centered approach and conduct the process in a way that will not cause any worries for students”.


- Priority fields for studies on disabilities were determined

CoHE President Saraç reminded that the fields needed for the pandemic were identified for the CoHE 100/2000 PhD Scholarship Project and stated that CoHE granted doctoral scholarships in the fields of study aimed at studies on disabilities such as Turkish Sign Language, Life without Barriers, Special Education, and Family Psychology under the program.

He said that new undergraduate and graduate programs were opened in order to increase the number of competent people in occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy and that the Department of Education of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder were opened in eight universities. He also noted that an associate degree program to support disabled people were opened at two foundation universities to train individuals, known as ‘shadow teachers’ abroad, in academia.


- "We keep an eye on the universities in the world"

He noted that CoHE had been acting with an agile management approach to manage Turkish higher education effectively during the pandemic within the framework of the decisions taken by the State and said, "We manage this process by making quick and flexible decisions through the committees and reviewing these decisions every day. In the meantime, we also keep an eye on the universities in the world and their decisions. We have determined the roadmap for distance education and have taken many decisions to prevent students from being affected negatively during this process.”

Saraç also talked about the measures that CoHE had taken for students with disabilities in distance education and said, "As of today, the number of students in our higher education system is around 7 million 852 thousand 51. According to the data of YOKSIS, the number of students with various levels of disability is around 50 thousand. This figure constitutes approximately 0.66% of the students in the Turkish higher education system.”

"While 80 universities made 668 applications in various categories for the Barrier-free University Awards last year, the number of applications made by 116 higher education institutions has reached 841 this year”, he said and completed his speech by extending his thanks to all the academic and administrative staff who contributed to the acquisition of the flags.

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

Minister of Family, Labour and Social Services, Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk, stated that barrier-free universities were able to overcome all physical, social, cultural and economic obstacles that are laid before all segments of society and that they were one of the fundamental elements of their ideals which they named as “Barrier-free Turkey”. She said that they attached importance to building barrier-free universities together with all units of universities, where individuals with disabilities can use their rights to higher education fully, effectively and equally. She noted that they were aware of the fact that these awards would increase the number of students with disabilities, who would receive university education, adding that countries that did not always place people in the center and did not give importance to people were left behind in terms of humanitarian development no matter how wealthy they were.

Following the speeches, the names of the higher education institutions that won the 2020 Barrier-free University Awards were announced.


- Record number of applications were received from universities

The third ceremony for the awards, which has been organized by the “New CoHE” since 2018, has again attracted great attention from universities this year. 116 universities made 841 applications to CoHE for the 2020 awards.


- "Barrier-Free University Flags" and "Barrier-Free Program Decorations"

CoHE presented “Barrier-free University Flags” in three categories, which are “Spatial Accessibility”, “Access to Education” and “Access to Socio-cultural Activities” to higher education institutions and “Barrier-free Program Decorations” to the related programs of universities which made their programs accessible for different groups of disabled people.


- “Barrier-free University Flags” were presented in three categories

Flag for Spatial Accessibility (Orange Flag) – CoHE received 431 applications. 41 universities were awarded with 118 orange flags.

Flag for Access to Education (Green Flag) - CoHE received 141 applications. 8 universities were awarded with 9 green flags.

Flag for Access to Socio-cultural Activities (Blue Flag) – CoHE received 141 applications. 12 universities were awarded with 17 blue flags.          

- 66 programs of four universities were awarded with “Barrier-free Program Decorations”

Among 114 applications made for the “Barrier-free Program Decorations”, 66 programs of four universities were awarded with Barrier-free Program Decorations.

While Osmaniye Korkut Ata University and Afyon Kocatepe University were the universities that received the most flags with 13 flags, Bilecik Şeyh Edebali University took second place with 8 flags and Ondokuz Mayıs University took the third place with 6 flags.


Click here to see the list of universities that received awards.

Click here for the fact sheet on the winners.

Click here to view the names of candidate universities for the 2020 Barrier-free University Awards.