Vakifbank which has done a Deal with Ordu University Students at Ordu University in Turkey are engaged in a struggle to defend themselves and their colleagues against commercial exploitation The following is a description of the situation at Ordu Univeresity:

Ordu University: The Stone in the Road

 Ordu University on the Black Sea in Turkey is a new institution serving predominately poor and working class young people. This year, it announced that instead of university identity cards – which admit students onto campus, into lectures and give them access to university facilities – it had done a deal with a bank the Vakifbank - that all students would be given a bank credit card and that this would also be their identity card. There was no choice – if students would not take the credit card they would not be able to access their higher education.  Quite apart from the fact that the students – many as young as seventeen – had little money and no experience with credit and therefore some were likely to get themselves into serious debt, the idea that the bank should be handed a large group of customers in a deal with a university, in which neither students nor teachers had had any say marks a new low in the privatisation of higher education in Turkey or indeed globally.  With the help of some of their teachers, the students organised a petition demanding the repeal of this regulation – the university administration refused to take it. After legal advice the students posted the petition to the administration so that they would have no choice but to take receipt of it. Meanwhile, the press had been informed of what was going on and the issue was beginning to become something of a cause celebre in the Turkish media. At this the administration started to take fright, on the one hand denying that these things were happening and on the other giving signs of  starting legal action against teachers who had helped the students in their fight.  Two of the students, who sent their objection petitions to the administration who were also working at the university refectory were sacked by the subcontracting private company Unyemek. It is a clear sign of the university administration’s intention to prevent students using their constitutional rights to object to the arbitrary and illegal practices of the administration. Students who were sacked by the company are very poor and they are in need of money and can’t make a living as students without working. This attack on students is the sign of what is going to happen to the academic staff and to other students who have objected to this illegal practice.  This is an important case for academics around the world – not only because the liberty and safety of fellow academics is at stake—but also the administration has chosen a new and relatively weak university to try out this scheme. If the struggle of the students and their teachers succeeds then as one of the teachers involved put it to me, Ordu can be a ‘stone in the road’ preventing this from spreading to every university in Turkey and beyond.