Blog of the International Sociological Association (ISA)
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The Post-2008 Crisis and the Crisis of Higher Education in Cyprus

The Post-2008 Crisis and the Crisis of Higher Education in Cyprus

Victor Roudometof, President of the University of Cyprus’ Faculty Labor Union Historically, Cyprus lacked its own public universities; the first ...

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Portuguese Science: Chronicle of Death Foretold

Portuguese Science: Chronicle of Death Foretold

Helena Carreiras, Senior researcher, Center for Research and Studies in Sociology, ISCTE, Lisbon, Portugal The Portuguese government decided to overhaul ...

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The Crisis of Public Universities in Indonesia Today

The Crisis of Public Universities in Indonesia Today

Lucia Ratih Kusumadewi and Antonius Cahyadi, University of Indonesia The Indonesian Reforms of 1998 brought about massive social change. Ever ...

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Germans Boycott University Rankings

Germans Boycott University Rankings

Scientific Evaluation, Yes – CHE Ranking, No Methodological Problems and Political Implications of the CHE University Ranking German Sociological Association ...

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Neoliberalism and Higher Education: The Australian Case

Neoliberalism and Higher Education: The Australian Case

Raewyn Connell, University of Sydney [1] When neoliberal policies in Australia began to bite in the sphere of higher education, towards ...

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Carnage in Aleppo University in Syria

Carnage in Aleppo University in Syria

Eighty-seven people were killed and at least 150 injured in two explosions that struck Aleppo University in Northern Syria this ...

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Calls for Academic Freedom: Reflections on Palestine and Israel

Calls for Academic Freedom: Reflections on Palestine and Israel

Feras Hammami, KTH, Royal Institute of technology, Stockholm, Sweden “Israeli academic freedom is under severe attack”. This was written in a ...

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Report Finds Risky Money Managment by University of California

Report Finds Risky Money Managment by University of California

A report released last week by UC Berkeley students, reveal the staggering human costs of University of California’s interest rate ...

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Pınar Üre, Department of International History, London School of Economics

The centralized control mechanism that the Yükseköğretim Kurulu, or YÖK, exercises over Turkish universities, has received considerable notoriety at home and abroad. Founded in 1982, shortly after the infamous military coup, the very existence of YÖK reflects the zeitgeist of the period when it was established. Yet, 30 years after the coup, it still stands as the major policymaking institution in the academic sphere in Turkey. Universities depend on YÖK’s approval for teaching and research staff appointments, the number of personnel to be employed, and to an extent, the content of courses. The existence of such a centralized institution means that in fact, any politically powerful group may intervene in university affairs by lobbying within YÖK. Other contributors to this blog have explained YÖK’s legal status in detail, so I do not want to delve deep into the legal aspect of the question. What I want to explain is rather the political and social implications of this control mechanism for Turkish society.

The impeachment of academic autonomy through centralized control has many drawbacks, especially when this control leads to the suppression of free and creative thought. The bloodshed caused by the political clashes between rightist and leftist university students (or in other words, different fractions of conservatives and Marxists) throughout 60’s and 70’s are still fresh in the memories of generations who lived through these days. This partly explains why in Turkey, since the 80’s, a “good” and “well-behaved” university student is identified nearly with an apolitical attitude. With the establishment of YÖK, in the name of protecting stability and keeping universities free from political clashes which were common back in the day, a hierarchical higher education system was created in which superiors have authority over those working under them. In this hierarchical system, students are the weakest link. Here is an example of what this means: In 2010, a student in Celal Bayar University protested the visit of the deputy prime minister, which bothered the President of the university. In the presence of cameras and journalists, the President threatened the student with dismissal from the school. In the next two years, the student was first suspended, then dismissed from the school. By discouraging students from asking questions and engaging in social-political problems and encouraging the memorization of knowledge, universities are reduced to the level of technical and vocational schools rather than spaces for the production of universal knowledge.
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Izabela Wagner, Institute of Sociology, University of Warsaw

Poland just like several other countries has been touched by dynamic changes in Higher Education (HE). These changes are a consequence of factors that are both external (globalization and EU politics) and internal (transformation post-1989 and demography). Following a global tendency, the increase of access to University made spectacular development. After the installation of a free market economy, we witnessed fast changes: former public university system (free of charges but with the selection at the entrance) was complemented by private high schools and paid studies at public universities. All this new business constitutes a precious source of income for these institutions. If before 1989, only about 7% of the population graduated with a degree (second level of HE), now almost 50% of young people are “clients” of the HE system. But the boom or even the “fashion” for studying is now gone. [On the one hand this is because the fear of obligatory military service is no longer a factor for entering university since the service became professionalized; on the other hand the number of unemployed university graduates provoke the partial loss of trust in HE as a solution to unemployment]. However, the major factor for the decrease in the number of students is demography.

Until today, both categories of colleges/universities live in a symbiotic way. Underpaid faculty from public universities survive thanks to their parallel positions at private schools. On the other hand, the private schools are able to work thanks to the knowledge and professional capital (titles of professors) of public faculty working for them. The faculty were always educated in the public system, which is still largely considered to be of better quality than the private. Unfortunately, soon we will not have enough students to maintain this large offer of HE. The war has started. The 1st October 2011 was the first day for the reform in which the Ministry of HE (MHE) declared the “decontamination of the last bastion of the communist era,” meaning of academia and the science sector. [More...]