Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 16. Nr. Dezember 2005
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Universities And European Cooperation Issues: Perspectives of Turkish Universities

Ulku Bayindir (Ege University, Izmir, Turkey)


As you all know, Turkey is a country located at the point where the three continents (Asia, Africa, Europe) are closest to each other and where Asia and Europe meet. It extends 1500 km from west to east and 600 km from north to south, covering a territory of 914,578 km² of variable geographic, climatic characteristics, splitting the country into several distinctive socio-economic regions.

Because of its geographical location, the mainland of Anatolia has always found favour throughout history and has been the birthplace of many great civilisations. It has also been prominent throughout the history, as a centre of commerce because of its land connections to three continents and the seas surrounding it on three sides. It has been a democratic state since 1923 and it is the only secular state in the world, where the majority of the population confesses the Islamic faith.

The country with its young population, highly-skilled, competitive labour, huge domestic market, unique geographical location, dynamic private sector and regional connections, possesses a great potential for international investors. Turkey has government agencies, with a direct remit for innovation policy and these issues are combined with serious efforts for establishing a national innovation system. It has an institutional structure with a long-tradition of policy development in the field of technological development and innovation policy.

With its population of 71.3 million, Turkey has agreed to take on responsibilities in a number of international organizations and agreements. In addition to its socio-economic strengths, it puts a lot of emphasis on research and higher education. 55% of its gross national R&D expenditures go to higher education and this is higher than the EU average.

Undeniably, Turkey is a developing country with numerous problems. However, it has a very young population; approximately 50% of the population is below 25 years of age. This group is continuing its education at the moment. Presently, there are 78 universities; 53 being state owned and the rest private. There are around 1.8 million undergraduate and 140,000 graduate students and approximately 37 % of these are female students.

The ratio of the total enrolment in higher education to the population in the age group of 18-21 years is 33%. Furthermore, the average number of undergraduate students per academic staff is 23.6.

The total number of academic staff employed in Turkish Universities is over 77,000, approximately 40% of whom are female researchers. 24% of the female staff are working as full professors, 35% as associate professors. These gender distribution percentages are considerably higher than most European countries where Sweden is the leading country with 13%. One of the reasons for this is a policy of completely equal salaries amongst genders, at all levels in all sectors, since the establishment of the Republic in 1923.

With respect to fields of study, applied social sciences and technical sciences predominate in the distribution of both students and academic staff.

The main mission of Turkish universities are: Increasing R&D capacity as well as stimulating R&D accessibility. Therefore the Higher Education Council has been focusing on increasing the number of researchers and improving the quality and size of research infrastructure and consequently upgrading the skills level of the regional labour force.

Improving the quality and size of research infrastructure is largely dependent on financial resources. Turkish Universities are primarily financed by the state (59 %), followed by income generated by universities (35%) and lastly by Student contributions (4 %).

The R&D results produced by academia can only contribute to the socio-economics of the country, if it is made easily accessible. This can be achieved through a better human capital provision, i.e.: higher number of graduates, more efficient communication of research results, i.e.: more publications, increased knowledge transfer - patents, spin offs, consultancy contacts and consequently more intense entrepreneurial activities.

The main challenge for Turkey is to harness the innovative capacity of its enterprises in order to compete in terms of raising productivity and increasing new product development, and not in terms of low labour costs. Turkey has a favourable ‘capacity’ but is relatively weaker in terms of ‘capability’. Building systems of innovation and integrating these into European innovation system, seems to be the best route to follow. Enhancing consultation between science and industry on R&D topics, disseminating know-how on IPR will eventually improve the absorptive capacity of firms for R&D output and this will in turn stimulate research commercialisation.

Presently Turkey ranks as 26 th in the world with respect to number of articles published by country with 65.126 articles. The increase in published articles has been 357 % in the last 15 years. The number of citations, on the other hand, has increased by 175 % from nearly 600 to over 8000.

Activities are carried out within the scope of existing European Programmes, such as Bilateral Agreements, Erasmus / Socrates Programmes and Framework Programmes. Collaboration with European Universities contributes to the globalisation of the Turkish academia as well disseminating the R&D findings. The country has become a full member in the Framework Programs only recently. Within the 6 th Framework Programme, 242 projects were funded out of 1360 submissions, so far (up to August 10 th, 2005). The percentage of researchers participating in FP6 projects is 22% in Turkey compared to 23%, for example, in Germany.

Turkish scientists collaborate with their European counterparts at different levels. The country takes an active part in ERA-MORE - The European Network of Mobility Centres. TURKEY has 6 Mobility Centers established through on FP6 supported EU Project entitled “TR-MoNET”. These centres have been assisting researchers in all matters relating to their professional and daily lives, including practical information on housing, schooling, day-care or language courses.

The country puts a lot of emphasis in education of its young population. It has joined the Bologna Process in May 2001 in Prague. It has also participated in SOCRATES Pilot project in 20O0-2004 and it has full participation from 2004-onwards. Turkey is also a Member of ENIC and NARIC while 46 Universities are Members of European University Association (EUA) and 56 are Members of International Association of Universities (IUA).

Turkey is fully committed to the implementation of the Bologna process, with all its stakeholders such as the Council of Higher Education, Turkish University Rector’s Committee, Interuniversity council, Bologna Promoters, etc. Moreover, the existence of more than 20 philological and cultural studies programs in Turkish Universities are efficient tools for mutual understanding of different cultures at a global level.

However there are a number of unresolved issues especially with respect to quality assurance:

The challenges for Turkish Universities are similar to the global challenges for European universities; enhancing the international competitiveness of higher education and creating greater focus and volume in research. These targets can only be reached through similar efforts at all levels. More comparability of higher education degrees and qualifications (the Bologna process) are required as well as more transparency in the higher education system.

Turkish Universities are ready to work hand in hand with European institutions toward these common goals. Research can only be enhanced through the integration of national research systems, adopting European level support mechanisms for research projects of individual teams (‘individual grants’) as well as encouraging competition for excellence, strengthening research infrastructure and increasing research training efforts.

In the next decades, Turkish Universities aim to respond more to the needs of industry and society. The societies of the 21 st century will need:

The vision of Turkish Universities include, life-long learning for the students to continuously improve the quality of skilled manpower and to extensively convey its young population the ability to develop new ideas and innovations.

© Ulku Bayindir (Ege University, Izmir, Turkey)

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TRANS       Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  16 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
Ulku Bayindir (Ege University, Izmir, Turkey): Universities And European Cooperation Issues: Perspectives of Turkish Universities. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 16/2005.

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