Winners of 2021 Barrier-free University Awards Announced

May 5, 2021 / Ankara

As is known, the Council of Higher Education has taken steps to make all Turkish higher education institutions accessible to all students with the works it has been carrying out under the title “Barrier-free Access and Barrier-free Education” in recent years. In addition to the arrangements for physical areas and inclusive design, CoHE has discussed the topics ofaccessibility to education programs and accessibility to socio-cultural activities, which have been neglected for years, and continued to closely watch the situation after setting some standards other than incentive studies.

According to YÖKSIS, there are currently51,647 students with disabilities. Among these students,27,782 of them receive educationat associate degree level, 23,581at undergraduate level, 236 atMaster’s degree level and 48 at doctoral level. 89% of these students are enrolled in open education programs.

- Works are carried out for all groups with disabilities

Physically challenged students and students with visual impairments have relatively higher access to higher education than other groups. The Council aims to integrate students from different disability groups such as the hearing impaired or students with autism spectrum disorder into higher education with its recent decisions. Even though a lot of progress has been made in inclusive design and access to physical areas, access to education has yet to reach the desired level. Students with special needs can only be integrated into education at all levels, graduate education in particular, when they are allowed to have access to formal education. Making a program accessible for visually-impaired individuals differs from making it accessible for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. To this end, different measures should be taken according to the needs of different groups with disabilities.

- “Barrier-free University Awards” are given every year

As a result of the works initiated for the integration of all students into campus life at universities, hundreds of criteria were determined and these criteria were linked with awards to encourage these efforts. The Barrier-free University Awards, which were given for the first time in 2018, encouraged universities to become accessible inphysical areas, education, and socio-cultural activities, and most of the universities gave impetus to their efforts by establishing committees on the topic .

The number of applications, which was318 from 41 universities in 2018, has risen to 841 from 116 universities in 2020.

- Award ceremony took place online this year once again

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 once again held through video conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

The Minister of Family and Social Services, Derya Yanık, President of the Council of Higher Education, Prof. M. A. Yekta Saraç, CoHE Executive Board Member and Coordinator of CoHE’s Working Group for Students with Disabilities, Prof. Zeliha Koçak Tufan, Executive Board members of CoHE, rectors of all universities, the rectors/related vice rectors/heads of the departments responsible for students with disabilities of the universities that have received the most awards and the panelists who contributed to the evaluation of the awards attended the ceremony.

In his opening speech, CoHE President Prof. M. A. Yekta Saraç noted that the pandemic had affected many fields and that it brought along new educational paradigms such as education technologies, distance education, digital data, digital skills, and digital transformation to higher education.

President Saraç emphasized that another topic that the “New CoHE” has been paying attention in terms of new and innovative initiatives was the works they had been carrying out under the titles of“barrier-free access” and “ barrier-free education” to remove the obstacles faced during enrollment in higher education and throughout the period of study.

Saraç reiterated the number of students with various levels of disability was over 50 thousand according to the data of YÖKSIS. He said that the number of students with disabilities is higher than this figure but that they were aware of the fact that these students did not report their disabilities to the authorities.

CoHE President Saraç talked about the arrangements made for students with disabilities and said, “In recent years, important arrangements have been made in topics such as the period of validity for exam scores for higher education entrance to be used by students with disabilities in programs that accept students via a special talent exam and the allocation of a certain amount of quotas (10%) for these students. Workshops were held to raise awareness of the accessibility of disabled individuals to all places and to disseminate good practices in higher education institutions since the 2016-2017 academic year, which is accepted as the Barrier-free Access Year.”

President Saraç said that Master’s programs with/out thesis for Turkish Sign Language Interpretation and a Doctoral program for Turkish Sign Language were opened for the first time in higher education.

“The priority fields aimed at studies on disabilities were identified under the CoHE 100/2000 PhD Scholarship Program and CoHE granted doctoral scholarships in some fields. New undergraduate and graduate programs were opened in occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy, and the Department of Education of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder were opened in eight universities. An associate degree program for Shadow Teachers were opened at two foundation universities to train individuals, known as ‘shadow teachers’ abroad, in academia.

As distance education has been carried out during the coronavirus pandemic, CoHE determined a Roadmap for Distance Education. Decisions were made regarding the accessibility of programs according to disability type, measures to be taken for online exams according to disability type, the attention required to ensure that student do not lose contact with higher education, and the contact of university staff with these students and their families at regular intervals. Proposals regarding the measures required for the accessibility of distance education for students with disabilities were also included in the “Report on the New Normalization Process During the Pandemic” and “Guide for the Development of Healthy and Clean Environments in Higher Education Institutions in terms of the Global Pandemic” .

CoHE’s Working Group for Students with Disabilities prepared a survey to assess the measures taken for students with disabilities and the current situation amid the pandemic. We continue to work on legislations aimed at the education of students with disabilities at all levels by considering the challenges they are facing in their associate degree, undergraduate and graduate studies.”

CoHE President Saraç concluded his speech by stating that he believed the Turkish higher education system would provide a barrier-free education environment for special students and include them in campus life.

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

Following Saraç’s speech, the Minister of Family and Social Services, Derya Yanık, made a speech. She emphasized that more citizens with disabilities would be able to go to schools, and buildings, pavements, parks and gardens would transform into common living spaces if social awareness increased. She said that she appreciated the increase of the number of universities awarded with barrier-free program decorations, which had been given to 41 universities since 2018, to 116 the previous year. “I believe wholeheartedly that there will not be any universities that did not receive this decoration left in line with the goals for 2013. Our primary goal is to remove the obstacles to the dreams of individuals with disabilities and to offer them barrier-free horizons. Minister Yanık concluded her speech by saying that the Ministry would continue to support state institutions and organizations, including universities, technically and financially.

Following the speeches, 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.

After the presentation, the Minister and CoHE President announced the higher education institutions that won the 2021 Barrier-free University Awards.

- Universities showed great interest in awards again this year

The fourth ceremony for the awards, which has been organized by the “New CoHE” since 2018, has again attracted great attention from universities this year. 837 applications for university flags from 114 universities and 108 applications for program decorations from 21 universities, which were submitted in fields such as health, engineering, special education, and architecture in seven panels held with the participation of academics from universities on 12-19 April 2021, were evaluated this year.

- "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 197 applications. 52 universities were awarded with 129 orange flags.

“Flag for Access to Education” (Green Flag) - CoHE received 21 applications. 14 universities were awarded with 30 green flags.

“Flag for Access to Socio-cultural Activities” (Blue Flag) – CoHE received 24 applications. Six universities were awarded with nine blue flags.

“Barrier-free Program Decoration” - Among 108 applications made by 21 universities for the “Barrier-free Program Decorations”, seven programs of two universities were awarded with Barrier-free Program Decorations.

While Kütahya Dumlupınar University received the most flags with ten flags, Aksaray University andHarran University took second place with nine flags andIstanbul University and Yozgat Bozok University took third place with eight flags.

Istanbul Bilgi University received the most flags for the category of accessibility to education and Istanbul University received the most flags for the category of accessibility to socio-cultural activities.

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

Click here for information on the awards.

Click here to view the names of candidate universities for the 2021 Barrier-free University Awards.