Opening Ceremony of 2020-2021 Academic Year Takes Place at Presidential Palace

October 15, 2020/ Presidential Palace-Ankara

CoHE held the opening ceremony of the 2020-2021 academic year with the participation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Presidential Palace.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Vice President Fuat Oktay, Turkish Parliamentary Speaker Mustafa Şentop, high state officials, ministers, CoHE members, directors of the related institutions, ambassadors, all university rectors, academics and students receiving education under the CoHE 100/2000 Doctoral Project attended the event.

The music recital of the Turkish Music State Orchestra of Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University was followed by a movie screening entitled “Higher Education” which was about the development of Turkish higher education and its current situation.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and CoHE President Prof. M. A. Yekta Saraç made speeches in the opening ceremony. At the end of the opening ceremony, CoHE presented the “CoHE 2020 Excellence Awards”, which are given in two categories every year.

CoHE President Saraç delivered the opening speech. He noted that the Opening Ceremony for the Academic Year had been held at the Presidential Palace under the auspices of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the last four years and that the “CoHE Excellence Awards" were presented to researchers. He emphasized that the ceremony strengthened their determination to work in these trying days due to the global pandemic.

President Saraç stated that the changes in the structures and functions of some institutions established in the past became inevitable over time due to the changes in social expectations and demands and that CoHE was about to achieve this goal through the actions it had taken in the last 5-6 years.

Saraç said that CoHE had been implementing higher education policies through new and innovative initiatives, most of which were a first in the history of Turkish higher education and were realized thanks to the support of President Erdoğan. “CoHE restructures our academic environment through concepts such as diversity, mission differentiation, specialization, priority fields, goal-oriented internationalization, open science-open access, digital transformation, and critical technologies while going through a transformation itself. We call it the New CoHE,” he added.

- Diversity of Universities, rather than one-type universities

He reiterated that they, as the New CoHE, brought the diversity of universities that Turkey had needed for decades to the Turkish higher education system with the strong support of President Erdoğan and underlined that there were research universities, universities focused on regional development, thematic universities, and universities aimed at vocational education in the Turkish higher education system, instead of just one type of university.

President Saraç said that the New CoHE initiated the CoHE 100/2000 Doctoral Project, which is a Turkey project, with the idea that the national development goals could only be achieved with qualified manpower. He also noted that the national doctoral project that aimed to train scientists in 100 priority fields, which were determined for the development goals of Turkey by the New CoHE, had been offering education to more than 5,000 students.

“With the initiative of the New CoHE, the lack of an independent quality board, an issue that has been talked for decades, was tackled with the establishment of a quality board that is more autonomous than its examples in Europe. As a result of the goal-oriented internationalization project, the number of students, which was 48 thousand in the year I was appointed as the president by His Excellency, has reached 180 thousand in five years. This is the figure of last year. This increase rate has not been seen in any European country in recent years. There is a meticulous work behind it. In this trying period that the whole world has been going through in higher education as it does in many areas, the public will learn the current figures of this year from His Excellency.”

He pointed out that one of the promising data of the Turkish higher education was the increase in the number of female students and scientists, to which President Erdoğan attached great importance. “The number of female academic staff, which was 28,030 -38% of the total number of academic staff- in 2003, has reached 45% today. This rate continues to increase every year. The research assistants of today will be the faculty members of tomorrow. While 42% of 27,380 research assistants were women in 2003, this rate has reached 51 today. Over 26 thousand of research assistants are women and 24 thousand of them are men. In other words, more than half of them are women. If the increase in the last ten years continues, there will be a higher education system in which faculty members are mostly women.” 

- CoHE Future Project was initiated

He noted that the New CoHE shared its goals that it planned to achieve in that year with the public at the beginning of each year and implemented these projects in the relevant year. He said that they were excited about the CoHE Future Project which was implemented this month. “Within the scope of this project, recruitment of research assistants in important interdisciplinary fields has been initiated for the development of our country. This project is a first in the employment of academic staff in the history of Turkish higher education. And again, as a first in the history of Turkish universities, we employ faculty members in 18 critical technology fields that we have specified for our country,” he said.

- CoHE’s New Project: “CoHE Career-Merit Project”

President Saraç delivered the good news about the implementation of the CoHE Career-Merit Project, which would bring a new vision to the employment of academic staff at universities, towards the end of this month. “As the New CoHE, we are proud to present to you our well-studied projects, as well as our higher education policies and projects, which are realistic, progress systematically, and yield results after implementation. Many of these policies support a human capital-based sustainable development approach and are focused on the goals of a strong Turkey.”

Saraç reiterated that the COVID-19 outbreak had deeply affected higher education and education systems all over the world and that learning, teaching and communication methods were being reshaped. He underlined that CoHE aimed the hybrid/blended education model it had introduced to the system and the extraordinary efforts of the universities would provide permanent benefits to Turkish higher education and Turkey beyond solving the problems we faced today.

CoHE President Saraç concluded his speech by saying, “In order to reach the high goals you have set for our country, to contribute to the march of our country towards becoming a global power, to break down the monopolies of the scientific world, to carry out scientific activities for this country and society, not to be defeated by science imperialism, and to enable the social justice and equity, we will continue to endeavor and work to ensure equal opportunities with our new and progressive initiatives.”

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

- Face-to-face training will be initiated as soon as possible

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan started his speech by wishing that the new academic year would be auspicious. He emphasized that it was of great importance that academic education had being carried on without interruption even under difficult circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. President Erdoğan stated that experience in distance could not replace formal education even though it was valuable. “We aim to start face-to-face courses in higher education as soon as possible just like in other educational stages.” he said. 

- “We kept our word”

He reiterated that they promised to establish universities in every province when he took office.  "With the support of our nation and efforts of the National Assembly, we kept our promise and ensured the establishment of universities in all 81 provinces of Turkey," he said. He noted that 207 state and foundation universities operating in the country had been offering education to 8 million 267 thousand students with 178 thousand academic staff and that the increase in the quotas of universities prevented the clustering of students in entrance exams. 

- “CoHE Anatolia Project” was announced for the first time

“We attach more importance to the development of the Turkish universities, which rise as the epitome of pride, especially all over Anatolia,” he said. He stated that he wanted to share the good news of a new project prepared by the Council of Higher Education. "This project, initiated under the name of CoHE Anatolia Project, aims to make up the deficiencies by matching the newly developing universities in Anatolia with the more developed ones. Thus, the infrastructure of the developed universities, trained academic staff and knowledge will be made accessible for the young universities in Anatolia. Similarly, the students of the matched universities will be able to participate in the programs of the other universities. Hopefully, we will realize this project starting from the second term of this academic year, " he added.

- Another innovative project: "CoHE Virtual Laboratory Project"

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan emphasized that another important step, that was better understood during the pandemic, was the "CoHE Virtual Laboratory Project" and said, "With this project, general chemistry and physics laboratory courses in the programs of the faculties of science, engineering and pharmacy will be offered online. 15 thousand students will be able to benefit from this project, which will start at 24 universities that are a part of the the Digital Transformation Project. I hope all these innovations will be beneficial to our country, our nation and especially our universities.”

He stated that the fields of study should be determined for each student gradually and that students should be provided with the necessary opportunities and support. He concluded his speech by saying that it was necessary to establish a robust, effective and functional system that included universities, high schools, middle schools, primary schools and even kindergartens.

Following the opening speeches, the “CoHE 2020 Excellence Awards” were presented to academics and universities to encourage the studies, projects, theses and activities related to community services that are carried out through the scientific studies of universities.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan presented the CoHE 2020 Excellence Awards.

They were given in two categories: Individual Awards and Institutional Awards. The “Individual Awards” were given in the categories of Social and Human Sciences, Science and Engineering and Health Sciences and the “Institutional Awards” were given in the categories of Community Service, Regional Development, University-Industry Cooperation and International Cooperation.