Protests grow over Turkish government’s plan to split up major universities

The famous gate of the Istanbul University.

Protests are growing against a bill to split up 13 Turkish universities, including İstanbul, Gazi and Anadolu, with 5,000 academics signing a petition against the legislation, which has been submitted to the Turkish Parliament for debate.

According to a report by the Hürriyet Daily News on Friday, the bill has sparked protests among students and university staff. The protesters initially gathered in front of İstanbul University’s main gate in the city’s historic Beyazıt Square on April 24.

“What they are doing is tearing apart historical ties, abolishing shared values, cutting off roots. By doing this, they aim to control universities more easily … They want to manage the invaluable estates of the university through a divide and rule policy against faculties,” said Turkish Medical Association (TTB) chairman Professor Raşit Tükel, a faculty member of the Cerrahpaşa School of Medicine.

On April 26, patients and their relatives also joined in the protests against the bill at the Cerrahpaşa School of Medicine. During the protests, student representative Kıvanç Yangı said a possible splitting off of the Cerrahpaşa School of Medicine from İstanbul University would negatively impact the academic value of both. “Cerrahpaşa School of Medicine belongs to İstanbul University, and İstanbul University is inseparable from its faculties,” Yangı said.

Vice Rector of İstanbul University Prof. Dr. Mert Savrun has reportedly resigned from his post. Savrun was also a faculty member of the Cerrahpaşa School of Medicine, which has displayed one of the strongest reactions of all universities against the proposed split-up.

Students and university staff also continued to protest the bill at Gazi University in the Turkish capital of Ankara and at Anadolu University in the Central Anatolian province of Eskişehir.

Meanwhile, some 5,000 academics have signed a petition against the bill, the Birgün daily reported on Friday. “The bill attempts to split up and weaken several universities in Turkey, which have successfully contributed to science and education despite limited resources. It has been discussed without notifying or consulting our universities’ responsible units,” the petition said.

“We cannot see any academic, financial or administrative reasons to split up our universities. The majority of skilled labor, which is involved in various sectors across Turkey, are graduates and members of large-scale and experienced universities,” it added.

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