The purpose of this blog is to provide analytical commentary on formal and informal labour organisations and their attempts to resist ever more brutal forms of exploitation in today’s neo-liberal, global capitalism.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Neo-liberal restructuring of Turkish Higher Education: An Ordinary Story from Ordu University.

Restructuring in Higher Education around narrow objectives of employability with a focus on economic benefits is not only occurring in the UK. Turkey too is experiencing increasing pressures along this line. In this guest post, Nuray Sancar outlines some of the authoritarian methods with which restructuring is imposed, but also the fledgling movement of resisting and contesting neo-liberal restructuring.

If there is no other expectation from personnel except for giving good performance according to determined criteria, if loyalty to superiors and management is tested permanently through the threat of not renewing the employment contract, if there is a desire to transform universities into subsidiary organisations of monopoly capital, those who say that a “university cannot be like that” will be treated as a spanner which is thrown in the works. These people will be terrorised in order to threaten potential followers, especially if they think that organizing is the best power and try to maximize their number in spite of being forced to be alone and to be silent.   

Thus, for this very reason an investigation was opened against seven academics at Ordu University for putting up notes on their doors stating  “We Want a University for the sake of Human, Nature and Society” and including the logo of Egitim-Sen (leftist Education Union). In a hastily prepared investigation document, it was stated that the academics had put up the notes without permission. The contents of the notes, however, was not revealed. On the same day, assistant professor Deniz Yıldırım, who is one of the seven, learnt that he was to be disciplined for releasing a speech about the draft new law of the Council of Higher Education (YOK).

The developments at Ordu University can be regarded as an example of what is to be carried out in academia across the country through this new law, which opens the door for neo-liberal transformation. Taking into consideration what academics explained during a workshop on 2 February, organized by the “Academics Won’t Stop Speaking Platform”, it is clear that what happened to Deniz Yıldırım and his colleagues is only the tip of the iceberg. Academics who are not approved by university management in line with the policies by the political authorities are threatened with being denied tenure, disciplinary procedures and redundancy.  But not only outspoken critics are under pressure, all universities are adjusted and restructured.

Nevertheless, university is something more than this dark picture. Each moment of oppression has led to organized resistance. Many large and small platforms, initiatives and unions of resistance have emerged within academia. After answering the question of “What should be done?”, which was also the title of one of the sessions at the workshop on 2 February, expressing the need for coming together, the establishment of the University Solidarity Platform (USP) was announced. It is a pretty significant development in terms of uniting the fragmented forces. USP brought together 31 organizations and the number of affiliated organizations increases each day. Students at METU, Ankara too organized a conference on 16 March in order to support this initiative.
The Education Union and USP did not leave their colleagues at Ordu University on their own. After all, the story in Ordu is a perfect example of what is happening across all universities throughout Turkey. Unless the attack on Deniz Yıldırım and his colleagues is rebuffed, it is inevitable that similar attacks will take place at other universities. Therefore, this “case” is of vital importance and solidarity in support of the colleagues at Ordu University is being organised in Turkey and abroad.

The political authorities and university managements are serious in their efforts. They are clearly opposed to the notion of “University for the sake of Human, Nature, Society”. Nevertheless, when you remove this wider remit from universities’ role in society, nothing will be left of science, education or reason. They do not care about these objectives. What they expect from universities has little to do with university itself.        

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