Dear Ambassador Tan,
Dear alumni and friends of Boğaziçi University
I consider it a special privilege and honor bestowed on my university and my humble self to address this august audience. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Ambassador Tan for extending his very kind invitation and for giving us this invaluable opportunity to meet with you all.
Currently celebrating its 150th year, Boğaziçi University has its origins in Robert College, which has the distinction of being the oldest American college founded outside of the United States. In 1971 Boğaziçi was formally instituted as a public research university. For all of us, including myself, who had the honor of being a member of both communities, the transition from an American college to a Turkish public university represents the endurance of an academic heritage that is both unique and universal. As we all can agree, educational excellence in an environment informed by democratic institutional values is a goal that all good universities aspire to. What makes my university exceptional in this regard is that it has managed to achieve this aim while continuing to nourish rich intellectual interactions among various different cultural orientations that have originated on both sides of the Boshporus.
Boğaziçi University has successfully kept alive the liberal arts educational tradition that it inherited from Robert College. This legacy of academic autonomy, scientific freedom and independent thinking continues to inform Boğaziçi University’s every undertaking, and the academic traditions of Robert College remain at its nucleus. With its full commitment to institutional freedom and democratic governance, Boğaziçi University also represents a way of life free of prejudice and bias.
Based on its vision of a society that acknowledges differences, and accepts and respects them, this democratic culture has managed not only to sustain but has also allowed to flourish a community where individuals from all walks of life can live, learn, and enjoy life and the pursuit of knowledge together. It is a culture that remains alive in every part of the University from its academics to its students and from its administrative staff to its alumni. This culture indeed embodies Boğaziçi University’s academic heritage and its vision for the future.
As higher education systems all over the world are undergoing significant transformations, it is especially important to remember and acknowledge that Boğaziçi University is a publicly funded institution. Globalization presents universities with both challenges and opportunities, and academic programs and scientific priorities are being reevaluated. All of these should lead us to appreciate even more the value of public universities, characterized by principles of civic responsibility and democratic participation, where knowledge is pursued for the public good. Thanks to this, our leader graduates will continue to contribute greatly to the social and economic development in equitable and sustainable terms both in Turkey and in the world.
Today, Boğaziçi University offers outstanding undergraduate and graduate programs in natural and social sciences, humanities, engineering, education, and applied disciplines. It is the most sought after university for students in Turkey and the region. It hosts more than 14,000 of the brightest and best students, most of whom are ranked in the top one half of one percent of the more than 1 million students seeking admission to undergraduate degree programs annually.
Our programs are geared towards empowering our students to become the global leaders of tomorrow by giving them the skills they will certainly need to generate an environment of peaceful coexistence and to engage in active citizenship within their societies.
The new generation of students has new ways of learning and socializing but the new generation of academics also has new ways of teaching and engaging these students. In Boğaziçi’s case, we are bringing the best minds of both generations to one of the most beautiful campuses of the world and are engaging them with the global problems of humanity where academic autonomy, scientific freedom and independent thinking are cherished as the pillars that define our institution. We will continue to be innovative and creative and use new technology while doing so, hopefully for another 150 years.
Thanks to all these efforts for excellence in education and research, Boğaziçi University maintains its position as the highest ranked institution of higher education in Turkey and as one of the world’s most respected universities. Always highly placed in university rankings, Times Higher Education (THE) ranked Boğaziçi University as the only Turkish university among the top 200 universities worldwide in 2013.
In order for Boğaziçi University to continue its excellence in academics and research, it needs to secure and further diversify its networks of collaboration and mutual support. Thus, global collaboration remains at the heart of our work resulting in a significant number of high-impact publications and international research projects. We continue to strive to define innovative ways for our students and staff to engage with the best institutions of the World and share our resources with incoming visiting students and scholars.
Ensuring that Boğaziçi University be increasingly perceived as an international leader and reinforcing its mission in global terms necessitates actively encouraging such international alliances which I sincerely believe will further strengthen Boğaziçi University in the years to come. To this end, Boğaziçi University has in the recent years stepped up its efforts in furthering its connections with the larger community and society at large.
Ensuring the continuity of Boğaziçi University’s culture, where the values of accountability to the public and egalitarian involvement prevail, requires developing active ties with, and nurturing sustained contributions from, our alumni and friends. American universities should be applauded for their success in acquiring very strong backing from a network of alumni. The strong connections between the American universities and their alumni constitute a model that we aspire to. When it comes to the quality of its alumni, Boğaziçi University should not and cannot be humble as its alumni are at par with those of the best institutions of the USA. We believe that our vision of a “strong alumni- backed public university” must be and will be transmitted and welcomed by our community.
On behalf of my university, I would like to end by saying that we are grateful to Tan and to the Embassy’s staff for hosting this very special event and for giving us the opportunity to reemphasize and communicate Boğaziçi University’s academic heritage, vision and mission effectively to so many of our friends and alumni, notably here in the United States, especially at this special time while we are celebrating its establishment 150 years ago.
I feel great pleasure at being with you and would also like to thank all of you for joining us on an evening when Boğaziçi University both commemorates its legacy and its accomplishments, and celebrates what it is today and hopes to become in the future.
Gülay Barbarosoğlu, Rektör
4 Mart 2014 // Washington DC