Statement Regarding Spring Term of 2020-2021 Academic Year

February 17, 2021

As is known, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, education and training activities at Turkish universities have been carried out within the framework of the decisions taken in the authorized boards of Turkish higher education institutions in accordance with our correspondence on the topic since March 2020.

The Council of Higher Education has been managing this process with strong coordination, flexible management and framework decisions. This approach is due to the fact that all Turkish universities, which are scattered in all provinces of our country, have different conditions and facilities, and that it is not right to apply the same measures and decisions to all universities in the same way.

Besides, the "Report on the New Normalization Process During the Pandemic" was sent to the universities, and the universities were given the freedom to implement practices for different programs according to the regional and local course of the pandemic. In this regard, CoHE also drew the attention of universities towards the issues such as hands-on training, internships, and vocational training.

In general, all the courses in all programs of Turkish higher education institutions continued to be held without interruption through online methods during the pandemic. However, students and academic staff have been informing the Council of Higher Education of their concerns about the senior students in majors and/or programs, which have intense hands-on training such as vocational schools, health programs, arts and design programs, and engineering and architecture majors, having reached the graduation stage without gaining the necessary competencies.

The Council also took the opinions of the students and academic staff, who are the most important stakeholders of this issue, about the process. To this end, CoHE conducted the largest survey on a national scale in Turkey with around 1 million 300 thousand participants. The survey results were shared with the relevant institutions, including the Ministry of Health.

In this context, it was deemed appropriate to take the opinion of the Ministry of Health on the method of applied and theoretical training courses, considering that there may be difficulties in compensating the shortcomings during the acquisition of the competencies of students, especially graduates. This request was submitted to the Ministry on February 2, 2021.

The following statements were included in the correspondence sent by the Ministry of Health in response to our request for opinion yesterday evening: "The increase in the number of cases in our country for the last 3 weeks requires us to be more cautious. It should be remembered that in-person learning in higher education institutions may cause a significant mobility other than the current conditions. It is considered that in-person learning can be carried out in applied training courses in higher education institutions with utmost attention and under strict precautions, but that it is appropriate to continue theoretical education via distance learning methods as much as possible.

In this scope, CoHE Executive Board took the following decisions at the meeting held on February 17, 2021, and reported in writing to all Turkish state and foundation universities today.

1. Universities can hold in-person courses for applied training by decreasing the number of students and dividing them into groups , provided that they pay utmost attention and take strict measures,

2. Theoretical training courses should be held online as much as possible by taking into account the opinions of the Ministry of Health and the minimum competencies to be acquired in the programs,

3. It should be taken into consideration that the Ministry of Health will reevaluate the situation in the mid-term,

4. Universities should allow the students, who do not want to continue their studies due to pandemic-related concerns or accommodation, to benefit from the right to suspend their studies ,

5. Universities should focus on counseling services as it is also important for universities to focus on student motivation during the pandemic.

The Council of Higher Education asked the universities to take into consideration the above-mentioned opinions of the Ministry of Health within the framework of the initiatives given to them by CoHE when taking decisions regarding the spring term of the 2020-2021 academic year.