University students continued to study online after the Covid-19 epidemic. It is not yet clear which applications would be used in universities in the new academic year. The Higher Education Council (YÖK) announced that university administrations would choose their own education models. University administrations have subsequently begun to announce that they would mainly continue online education. In this process, although students demand that a hybrid education model with the necessary precautions be taken, university administrations have not yet responded to their demand. Students have had to deal with many problems and uncertainties such as accommodation, transportation, tuition fees, salary and grant policies at foundation universities as well as technical infrastructure problems.
Filiz Kerestecioğlu, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Member of Parliament for Ankara submitted a parliamentary question to the Vice President Fuat Oktay about the pandemic regulations in universities and the problems of students,
The full text of the parliamentary question is as follows.
PRESIDENCY OF THE GRAND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF TURKEY
I sincerely hope that my following questions are answered in writing by the Vice President, Mr. Fuat Oktay, in accordance with the 98th and 96th and 99th articles of the Constitution.
Member of Parliament for Ankara
The Higher Education Council (YÖK) on August 13th 2020 stated that universities are planned to be opened after October 1st 2020 and that consideration of the course of the pandemic, the relevant university boards would decide whether the educational processes would be on-campus or online. Accordingly, most of the state and foundation universities decided to conduct distant education in the fall semester. However, uncertainties persist in many issues affecting students’ lives, from accommodation to tuition fees and exam conditions. University students are worried that their problems would increase in the 2020-2021 academic year and they demand that these problems be solved before the new term begins.
In order to prevent the spread of the pandemic, education at universities was suspended for 3 months on March 16th and it was decided to conduct distant education on March 23th. During this period, students have experienced many rights violations. Although nearly six months have passed, most universities do not have yet the infrastructure or preparation suitable for distant education. This is an indication that problems such as the efficiency of online courses and limited access to exams or homework loading systems will continue. Many students, due to their socioeconomic status, do not have the technological equipment such as their own computer or tablet, the online programs or devices they need to use in course applications, and fast and stable internet access necessary to follow their courses. However, there has been no regulation to provide students with free computers or sufficiently stable and fast bandwidth limits for free, as required by the right to education and the principle of equality and there have been no reductions in the taxes on computers, tablets and telecommunication services.
With the transformation of privatization in education as a state policy, the number of students studying at foundation universities has regularly increased. Students studying at these universities demand a reduction in fees due to the limitations of distant education in pandemic conditions and their inability to benefit from campus facilities. While some universities apply a small discount reflecting the recent VAT discounts, students state that they are exposed to injustices due to the high level of tuition fees in general.
There are also uncertainties as to whether the dormitories will provide services in the new term. There is no solution produced for students other than living with their parents, and safe alternative accommodation opportunities are not created. In addition for students who do not have a place to stay other than the dormitory, there may be serious violations of rights for students who think differently from their families, who are subjected to violence in the home they had to return to, or who refrain from living with their families for other reasons. University and dormitory life should be seen as not only a space for the academic development of students, but a fundamental experience and transformation environment that shapes the social, cultural and economic lives of young people. For example, for students who have to work while studying, the absence of these opportunities may mean being unemployed and losing basic livelihoods. In the absence of campus and dormitory facilities, the continuity of students’ cultural activities, creating online socialization spaces where they can express themselves freely or supporting them economically should be considered as an integral part of the right to education in accordance with the social state principle.
In this context;
1. Are you conducting a study to prevent the growth of socio-economic inequalities among university students in the distant education process? What are the concrete steps to be taken for this purpose?
2. Do you plan to provide the technological equipment such as computers, tablets, online programs for distant education for free to the students who do not have them?
3. Do you plan to provide a sufficient amount of stable and fast internet access for free to all university students?
4. Do you plan to make a regulation to abolish taxes on devices such as computers and tablets?
5. Do you plan to lower the telecommunications taxes?
6. Is there a study being conducted within the body of the Higher Education Council regarding the measures to be taken in case of on-campus education in some of the programs of universities?
7. What measures have been taken to ensure safe and healthy accommodation conditions in university dormitories for students who have to stay in dormitories? Is there any effort to increase the number of rooms while reducing the room population in university dormitories? Will the necessary budget be provided for universities to increase their dormitory capacity and take necessary measures?
8. Is there any work being carried out for the continuation of cultural activities at universities online, to create online socialization areas where students can express themselves freely or to support them economically?
9. Although the services provided to students in return for tuition fees at foundation universities have decreased significantly, there has not been any discount other than the VAT discount for the discount requests of students. Are you conducting any studies aimed at solving this victimization caused by privatization policies in education?
10. Many students demand a hybrid system in which educational activities are carried out both distant and on-campus in the future. In line with these demands, have comprehensive plans been made to solve the needs of students in the safest way, from classrooms to dining halls, from accommodation to transportation?
11. While no tuition fees are collected from full time students attending universities during the workweek, will you also eliminate the inequality created by the increase in fees collected from the evening students in distant education conditions? In this process, are any efforts being made to abolish the applicable fee for evening education?