Greek minority set to open private university in Istanbul

Greek minority set to open private university in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Greek minority set to open private university in Istanbul

A historic Greek minority school in Galata district will host the university. DAILY NEWS photo / Emrah Gürel

Istanbul’s Greeks are preparing to open a private university, one of the community’s members has told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The university will teach in Turkish, Greek and English, and will have departments such as Greek Language and Literature, Medicine and International Law. It is planned to be opened in the Merkez Greek High School in the Beyoğlu district of central Istanbul.

The project bloomed after 2011, when the Turkish State passed a historic decree to return property taken away from minority foundations 75 years ago.

The Yeni Yüzyıl University Health Sciences Dean Ersi Abacı Kalfaoğlu said the community discussed what to do with the foundation and high school then, and she was elected as the High School foundation head.

After the project was first coined, there was huge support from both within and outside of the community and Abacı Kalfaoğlu said that Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK) fully supported the idea. Now, even though there are some procedural problems such as the absence of an article which allows the building to be used as a university in the contract signed during the returning of the building, the Directorate General of Foundations is also aiding the project.

Abacı Kalfaoğlu said that the university’s foundation could help to lure the Istanbul-nascent Greek academics of the world.

“Definitely,” she said, in response to the question of whether there could be a “reverse brain drain.”

“We have started holding talks,” Abacı Kalfaoğlu explained. “We have contacted some really important names.”

The Greek community has been facing the problem of schools being closed down due to lack of students and it has many empty and unused buildings, which could serve as university faculty buildings.

“There are many possibilities in terms of buildings,” she said. “The biggest problem is budget. We need a serious budget for the restoration of the severely damaged buildings. We already knew that it was not an easy project. We are planning to cooperate with other Greek foundations on that subject.”

Abacı Kalfaoğlu underlined that the university was not necessarily a Greek community project, and said it would serve not only the community members.

“This is the project of a foundation,” she said. “It will serve the country directly. Our aim is to contribute to the Turkish and Greek friendship, by way of science.”

The minority foundations representative for the Directorate General of Foundations, Laki Vingas, said this was a project that needed to be supported.

“Developing the minority communities serves the development of Turkey’s democracy, and it shows the harmony that exists in the community with the cosmopolitan structure,” Vingas said. “I am trying to contribute to any project in that sense. That is the only way we can develop a new and equal community.”