Searching for the Future: Preservation of the Academic Heritage of the Middle East

Searching for the Future: Preservation of the Academic Heritage of the Middle East

02 Apr 19

On March 28, 2019 the Turkish Heritage Organization hosted a panel “Inclusion to Education: Preservation of the Academic Heritage in the Middle East” featuring panelists: Professor Zeliha Kocak Tufan, Executive Board Member, Council of Higher Education of Turkey; Professor Umran Inan, President of Koc University; Professor Mehmed Ozkan, President of Bogazici University; and Professor Omer Turan, Chairman of the Department of History at the Middle East Technical University. 

The panel discussion began with opening remarks from Turkish Heritage Organization President Ali Cinar and opening presentations from Professor Tufan, a medical professional by trade from Turkey. Professor Tufan discussed the impact the refugee crisis is having on their educational system and how they are shaping their academic structure. Professor Tufan discussed: “We have developed new higher education programs incorporating 102,000 scholarship projects including a focus on refugee studies. The refugee crisis does not have one side, so we are encouraging education from all aspects.” Further, she mentioned that it is critical to ensure that there are no academic gaps for academicians for those who have been impacted from war and “that is why Turkey has opened their doors for all students and academicians.” 

With Turkey as the top-refugee hosting country since 2015 according to UNCHR reports, 540,000 students fall in that age of possibility for higher education and the projects developed by Professor Tufan and the Turkish educational system will help address this need. 

Next, Professor Turan from the Middle East Technical University began his presentation on preserving culture and academic traditions that were disturbed following the destruction war. Professor Turan discussed the rich history of education throughout the Islamic and Ottoman Periods with the development of primary schools and libraries in the region. Prof. Turan discussess the UN report from 2015 and noted “that recorded the Syrian War stopped roughly 14 million children from going to school.” Additionally, he discussed the 2018 UNICEF report that the Syrian War has put 1 out of 3 schools out of use. Professor Turan encouraged the importance of encouraging the outreach through education. 

Following Professor Turan’s presentation, Professor Umran Iman began his presentation and discussed Koc University’s history and the impact on the region. 

Professor Inan discussed that Koc University promotes the idea of a "free enterprise system because people produce the best work when they are free."

Professor Inan also mentioned the challeges of international recruitment of students and the scholarship program from the Al Ghurair Foundation to support refugee students.

Finally, Professor Mehmed began his presentation on the topic of heritage and history at Bogazici University. Professor Mehmed discussed that the most beneficial aspect to overcome these academic challenges would be to “continue and even further develop existing collaborations between countries.”

Following all of the panel presentations there was a brief question and answer session.