CoHE and TSE Sign Cooperation Protocol

September 2, 2020 / Ankara

A cooperation protocol was signed between the Council of Higher Education (CoHE) and the Turkish Standards Institute (TSE) to determine the generic standards that include measures for the development of healthy and clean environments at the campuses of Turkish higher education institutions within the scope of the combat against the COVID-19 pandemic and infectious diseases.

Mustafa Varank, Minister of Industry and Technology, and Prof. M. A. Yekta Saraç, President of the Council of Higher Education, signed the protocol. The protocol aims to determine training and certification areas, to create work schedules and to make the necessary arrangements for the realization of these topics for the development of healthy and clean environments in higher education institutions within the scope of the combat against the global Covid-19 pandemic and infectious diseases for the provision of hygienic conditions, the contribution to the development of the necessary infrastructures and the implementation and monitoring of infection control measures.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, CoHE President Saraç stated that universities were affected from different angles during the pandemic, and underlined that, as CoHE, they set up a dynamic process parallel to the dynamic course of the pandemic and managed the process with strong coordination and flexible management.

President Saraç noted that the works of the Council for the pandemic could be evaluated in four stages: "Close monitoring", "Preparation", "Immediate Action" and "New Normalization". "During the period of “Close Monitoring”, which happened to be the first stage, we closely watched the new epidemic in China between December 2019 and January 2020 and held meetings to address the issue from different viewpoints following the declaration of a global health emergency by the World Health Organization on January 30. The epidemic reached many countries in the stage of “Preparation”, which took place between February and 10 March 2020. There were not any cases in Turkey. However, measures were taken about university exchange programs and meeting participation at universities, international meetings in particular, under the coordination of CoHE. Preliminary preparations were also made in line with the course of the cases in other countries. We proceeded to the third stage following the declaration of pandemic by the World Health Organization starting from the date the first case was reported in Turkey. Continuous and direct contacts were made with the rectors of the universities. Commissions on Coronavirus were established at universities, and these commissions were directly engaged with CoHE. Online education was initiated. A distance education commission was established within CoHE. A road map was prepared for distance education. CoHE Courses Platform was created. Continuous meetings were held with deans and faculty members to assess the situation on the field. Distance education centers were established at Turkish universities. In addition, the scope of the Digital Transformation Project, which was initiated previously for Turkish universities established after 2006 in Anatolia, was expanded and the lecturers started to be trained. We switched the higher education system to blended learning/hybrid learning. The pandemic is still going on and we are now in the fourth phase, which is the period of the New Normalization. The pandemic has not regressed in many countries, yet people try to live by taking some measures." He reiterated that the Council published a guide called "The New Normalization Process in the Global Pandemic" and that they would make plans for universities for the 2020-2021 academic year according to the regional and local course of the pandemic, infrastructure opportunities and the number of students in the relevant programs.

He underlined the need to develop certain standards to present healthy environments during this process and said that the "Guide for the Development of Healthy and Clean Environments in Higher Education Institutions and Infection Control Measures", which will be prepared in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Technology, is an important step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases. He also added that these standards would serve as a framework for the willing universities.

At the end of his speech, Saraç thanked Mustafa Varank, the Minister of Industry and Technology, and TSE officials for their interest and cooperation.