The ruling blocks a decision made by the Higher Education Board's (YÖK) General Council to reduce the coefficient to 0.13 and 0.15 instead of the previous 0.3 and 0.8. It was not immediately certain how the Student Selection Examination (ÖSS) schedule would be impacted by the court decision.
Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM) head Ünal Yarımağan called on vocational school students and graduates not to stop applying for the university admission examination, indicating that the period set for filing applications would be extended, if necessary.
“The examination will be held. I cannot comment on a prospect of a delay in the exam schedule at the moment. It may or may not be delayed,” he told reporters.
The coefficient system was introduced during the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup period in an attempt to keep students from religious imam-hatip schools -- classified as vocational schools -- out of universities. The system has been the subject of strong criticism in Turkey as it is clearly unfair toward graduates of vocational schools -- including imam-hatip schools, which have an additional curriculum to provide religious education to students -- who want to study at universities.
The Council of State has yet to announce the reasons for its decision.
In a landmark move last July, YÖK decided to totally abolish the coefficient system. It was regarded as a “groundbreaking” move to eliminate inequality between graduates of vocational schools and all other high schools in Turkey.
Shortly after the YÖK decision, the İstanbul Bar Association asked the 8th Chamber of the Council of State to ensure the coefficient system remains in place. In late November, the court ruled to retain the system, arguing that the abolishment of the coefficient system would damage the integrity and harmony in the organization of the Turkish education system. The court also added that the move to remove the coefficient is against the law and the principle of equality and would lead to damage that is impossible to repair.
Undaunted by the court’s decision, YÖK appealed the ruling, saying the only body authorized to decide the calculation method is YÖK itself. In December, it attempted to partially solve the problem by reducing the difference in the coefficients used to form scores of regular and vocational high school students to be as small as 0.13 percent.
The İstanbul Bar Association, however, asked the Council of State to again rule against the YÖK move in late December. The bar request was denounced by many civil society organizations and vocational school students. “The examination process has already begun. More than 1.5 million students have focused on the national exam. The Council of State should reject the İstanbul Bar Association’s request, taking into consideration the situation of these students,” Professor Halis Ayhan, a former YÖK member, said.
The 8th Chamber of the Council of State, however, turned ignored all calls and ruled on Monday to retain the notorious coefficient system.
YÖK has the right to appeal against the decision.
The abolishment of the coefficient system, which had been suggested many times in the past by well-known companies, including Koç Holding and Zorlu Holding, is regarded by the industrial sector as a means to solve the problem of finding qualified staff. Since vocational school graduates faced difficulties in continuing their education at universities in the past, it has been difficult for companies to find qualified employees.
Rıdvan Kaya, chairman of the Freedom Association (Özgür-Der), told Today’s Zaman that the Council of State ruling showed the “unlawfulness” of higher judicial bodies in Turkey.
“It is really very hard to find proper words to comment on the latest Council of State ruling. When we examine this ruling along with the past decisions of higher judicial bodies, such as the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the government’s move to lift a ban on the headscarf at universities, we see these bodies’ mindset of unlawfulness. They are working to protect the official ideology. They turn a blind eye to the public’s demands. In order to protect the official ideology, they resort to fanatical interpretations [of the law],” he said.
He also underlined that these bodies share a mindset with coup plotters and indeed do what coup plotters would like to do.