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Turkish transformation

Wayne Trotman reports on developments in Turkey’s university sector


WIDESPREAD IMPACT Wayne Trotman with international students at Izmir Katip Çelebi University in Turkey (Courtesy Wayne Trotman)

Change is coming to Turkey’s EAP arena once again. The number of universities in the country continues to rise. Latest figures report over 190 of them, and encouragingly this is predominantly in the state sector. This came as a surprise to me, having spotted on a recent visit there five ‘foundation’ (private) universities in Istanbul all within ten minutes of each other.

Although there is certainly no shortage of ELT staff to assist, it is still not easy to recruit the necessary professors and assistant professors to legally open faculties teaching fully in English. To address this, the Ministry of Higher Education in Ankara recently decreed that students for the academic year 2015–16 whose studies in faculties are solely in Turkish need no longer undergo the currently obligatory intensive preparatory year.

The impact of this could be widespread, not least on the second-language proficiency of thousands of students across Turkey. Since they rely on book sales from such students, major publishers are still reeling from the shock. Although figures will vary from one university to another, income from potential sales could fall by 15–25 per cent.

Looking to the future, universities currently understaffed may be breathing a sigh of relief as the number of classes at many institutions will almost certainly be affected. This is not good news for contracted teachers working on an hourly paid basis, or those in the private sector whose conracts are subject to annual review. The bottom line is this: foundation universities may offer teachers better material conditions, but positions in state universities are much more secure and thus much sought after.

In spite of the above, the potential quality of EAP teaching in Turkey continues to impress. My colleague John Dyson recently outlined the increase in those signing up for the Celta and Delta (December 2014 Gazette, page 6), and I predict that more centres running the latter will open as the perceived value of such qualifications in Turkey grows. Several universities in Istanbul demand the Delta from all job applicants. In contrast, graduate teachers opting for the massively overpriced courses tagged onto four-year university degrees are beginning to see the futility of such an investment when they fail to gain a teaching position. Job applicants I’ve interviewed in recent years who have been on these courses report large doses of second-language acquisiton theory but little or no possibility of observing or being observed teaching.

On a more optimistic note, EAP trainer education in Turkey has become much more widely available since the inception in late 2012 of T-Plus (Trainers for Professional Learning and Unlimited Services). The initial impetus for this came from Dr Bahar Gün, director of training at Izmir University of Economics, following which a committee was established that arranges twice-yearly conferences for trainers from all over Turkey.

With a membership fast approaching 200, T-Plus’s events attract trainers from over 30 per cent of universities. The next one, at TOBB ETU university in Ankara in June, will feature Rod Bolitho. And following the second ELT conference for trainers at Hacettepe University in Ankara, a networking website was set up. A visit to www.facebook.com/eltnetworkturkey will call up full details of all forthcoming conferences in Turkey. While opportunities via courses and conferences for teachers to improve their knowledge skills are certainly on the rise, institutions await the outcome of losing students – and possibly teaching hours – in their university’s preparatory year.


Wayne Trotman (waynetrotman@gmail.com) supervises ELT research projects at Izmir Katip Çelebi University in Turkey and is EL Gazette’s ‘reviews supremo’