|Five members of the Higher Education Board (YOK) issued a very harsh statement against the chairman and criticized him for pushing the ruling party's agenda in university education, a move that has heightened the division within the institution.(UPDATED)
"The appointment of people who ran as a candidate from the ruling party in the last general elections, who are known as being prominent supporters of the ruling party or who signed the declaration to support lifting the headscarf ban in universities to YOK membership or university deans is a source of concern for every high education institution," five members of the institution said in a harsh statement issued late on Wednesday.
The statement was signed by the Prof. Engin Atac, Prof. Mustafa Ilhan, Prof. Tuncalp Ozgen, Prof. Fikret Senses ve Bulent Serim. Nine of 20 YOK members are known opponents of the chairman, Prof. Yusuf Ziya Ozcan.
YOK members met on Thursday to discuss the new system for university entrance exams.
Ozcan was appointed last year by President Abdullah Gul. He is among the academics that extended support to government-sponsored initiatives in Turkey’s universities, including the bill lifting the headscarf ban.
He came under the spotlight in February when he issued a directive to university deans allowing female students wearing headscarves onto campuses despite legal the uncertainties surrounding the government-sponsored bill. An overwhelming majority of universities rejected Ozcan's directive.
Opponent members of YOK recalled the incident in their statement, and said the perception of democracy in the current administration of YOK is limited to the "headscarf issue".
They accused Ozcan of blocking the acceptance of the representative of another university association, which is a fierce opponent of the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), into YOK.
YOK held a meeting on Thursday to discuss the planned changes in the university entrance system and delayed its decision on a critical issue.
The critical issue topping the agenda of the YOK meeting is the new regulation that would make it easier for graduates of imam hatip (religious) schools to study unrestricted at any faculty.
Under the current regulation, graduates from high schools with special status, which have education programs for specialized professions or trades, such as mechanics and imams, are encouraged to continue their tertiary education at the related faculty.
In the case of imams, those who graduate from imam hatip schools earn extra points in the university entrance exam if they chose to study in theology faculties.