Turkish gov’t to stop sending students to American universities

The Turkish government will stop sending students to the United States for postgraduate studies and limit the number it sends to European and Asian countries, the pro-government Yeni Şafak newspaper quoted Turkish Deputy Education Minister Mustafa Safran as saying on Thursday.

NATO allies Turkey and the US are embroiled in a diplomatic tussle over Turkey’s imprisonment of American citizens that Washington says are being held hostage. The US last month imposed sanctions on two Turkish ministers and doubled tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports. Turkey responded with sanctions of its own on some US goods.

Safran criticised postgraduate teaching in the US and said the new policy would save the Turkish government the $20 million it pays to US universities annually. Students would only be sent to European and Asian countries for postgraduate studies in a limited range of subjects.

The crackdown on critical thinking in Turkey in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, with an unprecedented witch hunt targeting teachers, academics and other professionals in the education sector, has dealt a huge blow to free thought in Turkey, according to a report released by SCF.

The government of President Erdoğan has jailed some 20,000 instructors and arbitrarily fired 34,185 public school teachers and 5,719 academics including professors from state universities within the last two years alone. They were branded as “terrorists” and “coup plotters” without any effective administrative or judicial probe and as such marked for life.

The government shut down 1,069 privately run schools, most of which were the nation’s best performing science schools and were affiliated with the Gülen movement, and closed down 15 universities that were run by privately held foundations. As a result, 2,465 academics and 54,350 teachers instantly became unemployed. With the support staff who worked in these schools, the total number of people who lost their jobs reached 65,214. The government also canceled the licenses of 22,474 teachers, making it impossible for them to continue working as teachers in other institutions.

In total, 96,719 teachers and academics were purged from Turkey’s public and private educational institutions. This number does not include the support staff that was hired to run schools and universities in administrative and other capacities.

Most of the shuttered institutions were transformed into religious schools that are designed to raise a new generation of Islamist supporters for Erdoğan’s AKP.

When all the closed institutions are taken into account, the total loss in value including fixed property and land is around $100 billion, one source estimates. The crackdown included foreign students who came to Turkey for study or Turkish students who were sent abroad on government scholarships.

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