Erdoğan: Don't take academic bursaries for granted

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken aim for the second time in a week at Turkish academic bursaries, telling students not to take them granted during a speech at his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, Sputnik news reported.

Erdoğan had already touched on the topic last Saturday, urging students during a youth summit to apply for credit from banks to attend universities and “not to get used to handouts.”

During his speech in parliament on Tuesday, the president floated the idea of interest-free loans for students as an alternative to academic bursaries. These would be repaid once students had graduated and started working, he said.

While Erdoğan presented the idea to Turkey’s young generation as a moral imperative to buck up and pay their own way, the sudden loss of favour for student funding may have more to do with the economic constraints foreseen by the government in the coming year.

Turkey’s economy has been under severe strain this year as it has faced multiple problems including high inflation and a weakened lira, and academic bursaries were cut by 70 million lira in June, Turkish secularist newspaper BirGün reported on October 22.

Despite the cuts and the loss of thousands of academics due to government and legal pressures on Turkish universities, Erdoğan still harbours serious ambitions for his country’s academia.

“How are the universities in Turkey not among the best 500 universities of the world? It means we have lost something, it means there is a problem somewhere,” said the president in October, after Turkish universities failed to make the Center for World University Rankings’ top 500.