Background of the Problem
According to Sporn (2007), deregulation, privatization, marketization and competition are neo-liberal policies affecting higher education institutions. As a result, expectations from higher education have been increasing and new responsibilities and new problems have been arising. Specific to Turkey, there has been a huge increase in the number of universities. According to dataset of Turkish Higher Education Council (YÖK, 2015), there were 70 universities in 2003 while there are 193 universities currently. This increase caused problems such as allocation of resources, academician inadequacy, and deterioration in personnel rights, drawing attention to higher education. Development of new universities, Bologna process, reform of higher education, problems faced in universities, paradigms for new universities are frequently studied in Turkish higher education system (Altınsoy, 2011; Arap, 2010; Şimşek & Adıgüzel, 2012). While some studies examine structural issues in higher education, some examine the problems of academia. On the other hand, there is a recent political discussion, namely “academic freedom” in Turkey. Academic freedom is at the heart of all discussions related to higher education, but studies focusing on academic freedom is indirect. Unfortunately, in Turkey academic freedom is studied only in terms of autonomy, democracy, and accountability (Gedikoğlu, 2013; Güneş, 2011; Gür, 2011). Moreover, academic freedom is superficial and limited to written documents. In 2013, previous head of Turkish Higher Education Council, Gökhan Çetinsaya, published a declaration of academic freedom that had 9 articles. As a result, there is a gap in Turkish literature such that academic freedom is not studied in a wide spectrum that takes into consideration the relationship between academic freedom and higher education system.
The reason why academic freedom discussions are too superficial may be invisible facts in roots of academic freedom. When historical development of defining academic freedom is investigated, it can be seen that academic freedom contains some barriers in itself. According to Altbach (2001), academic freedom was defined as i) freedom of professors to teach his or her field without any external control and ii) freedom of students to learn in medieval times. In this definition, emphasis on “without external control” implies external control as a barrier to academic freedom. By the 20th century, the American Association of University Professors defined it as protection of academic community from civil authorities. This definition also proves civil authorities as a barrier in front of academic freedom. On the other hand, academic freedom studies even in European context have a tendency to protect academic freedom. Aarrevaara (2010) emphasizes importance of legislation at protecting academic freedom in Finland and other European countries. The Magna Charta that is a legislation related to European universities aims to secure autonomy of universities, closeness of the link between teaching and research, European humanistic heritage, and freedom of teaching and research. Also, Karran (2007) conducted a study about academic freedom in 23 European countries and found legislations protect strongly academic freedom in Finland and Germany whereas Italy and England have low level of legislative protection for academic freedom. Undoubtedly, these protection efforts are implemented because barriers to academic freedom are considered. In Turkish literature, while Önder (2008) emphasized the effects of capitalism on higher education system, Değirmencioğlu (2008) criticized individual ego damaging higher education and universities’ arbitrary attitudes embowering scientific research. These studies show probable relationship between academic freedom and higher education system, highlighting the importance of identifying barriers to academic freedom to address the gap mentioned above. In this aspect, the purpose of the study is to identify barriers to academic freedom in the Turkish context and to explore whether a classification can be made to better understand the barriers.
Aarrevaara, T. (2010). Academic freedom in a changing academic world. European Review, 18(S1), 55-69. Altbach, P. G. (2001). Academic freedom: International realities and challenges. Higher education, 41(1-2), 205-219. Altınsoy, S. (2011). Yeni devlet üniversitelerinin gelişimi: Sorunlar ve politika önerileri. Yükseköğretim ve Bilim Dergisi, 1(2), 98-104. Arap, K. S. (2010). Türkiye Yeni Üniversitelerine Kavuşurken: Türkiye'de Yeni Üniversiteler ve Kuruluş Gerekçeleri. Ankara Üniversitesi SBF Dergisi, 65(01), 001-029. Çetinsaya, G. (2013). Akademik özgürlük bildirisi. Retrieved from http://higheredu-sci.beun.edu.tr/pdf/pdf_HIG_1482.pdf. Değirmencioğlu, S. (2008). Kamusaldan özele dönüsen olanaklar ısığında üniversitede demokrasi. In report of Union of Education and Science Workers. Gedikoğlu, T. (2013). Yükseköğretimde akademik özgürlük. Yükseköğretim ve Bilim Dergisi, 3(3), 179-183. Güneş, M. (2011). Bilginin iktidarında çağdaş üniversiteler için akademik özgürlüğün anlamı. KHO Bilim Dergisi, 21(2), 31-51. Karran, T. (2007). Academic freedom in Europe: A preliminary comparative analysis. Higher Education Policy, 20(3), 289-313. Önder, İ. (2008). Üniversite özerkliği, bilimsel özgürlük ve demokrasi. In report of Union of Education and Science Workers. Petticrew, M., & Roberts, H. (2006). Systematic reviews in the social sciences: A practical guide. Blackwell Publishing. Sporn, B. (2007). Governance and administration: Organizational and structural trends. In International handbook of higher education (pp. 141-157). Springer Netherlands. Summak, M. S. (1998). Academic human rights and freedoms in Turkey. In The Educational Forum, 62(1), 32-39. Şimşek, H., & Adıgüzel, T. (2012). Yükseköğretimde yeni bir üniversite paradigmasına doğru. Eğitim ve Bilim, 37(166). The Higher Education Council. (2015). 15.03.2016. retrieved from https://istatistik.yok.gov.tr/
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