Since our last correspondence, we already have completed a full face to face month on our campus with our students, faculty and staff. October has always been a special month for Koç University since we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of our university as a result of the brilliant foresight of the late Vehbi Koç, signified by his ‘opening lecture’ delivered on October 4th, 1993. Having the birthday of our great institution and the start of our school year back-to-back was a very welcome coincidence as we had stated in our September address. Our ‘Together Again’ video with faces of our students, faculty and staff beaming across our screens on our 28th anniversary surely reflects the joy and excitement of everyone to be back on campus.
A majority of our staff have put in literally hundreds of hours for a safe return to campus. In these uncertain times, this undertaking has been a Herculean effort, which has been accomplished most successfully.
We have implemented many actions to promote the safety and welfare of our community for our full return to campus, which have been shared with you since May 2020. Our main strategy against COVID-19 still continues with full vaccination and wearing of masks and we are indeed very happy to share that our vaccination percentages are quite high, well above averages in our country and in many higher-ed institutions globally.
One of our busiest Departments within our University has been our Information Technology Directorate. In a matter of 18 months, we have really amped up our online capabilities and now all our courses are simultaneously delivered both face to face and online. We did have some challenging days at the beginning of the academic year, but we are nicely settling in. A safe and clean working environment is key to our well-being and our Facilities Directorate has been working round the clock during the pandemic and at the start of the new academic year to provide that. You must have noticed the measures taken all around our campus, at commonly used places such as dining areas and our Health Center has been providing outstanding support to all our community during this period. We are thus ready to brace what appears to look like another tough winter ahead. We have also made important changes and improvements in our security systems which work really well, given we have already been more than a month into our semester without major glitches on campus entries and circulation within. We thank all our faculty and staff for quite a smooth start, after a long 18-month hiatus away from our beautiful campus. We are pleased to have started a semester after a very difficult period without a major hiccup.
Our General Faculty & Staff Meeting was held face to face on October 8 at our usual meeting place, the beautiful Sevgi Gönül Auditorium (SGKM) after 3 long semesters and 4 online meetings. It was a most welcome get together with close to 200 people at SGKM and close to 300 joining us via Zoom. This hybrid modality allowed more and, in some ways, easier participation.
What we have all underlined in our respective addresses to our faculty and staff, was the fact that our University emerged out of this crisis stronger than before, reminding us that we are indeed all here to systematically create new knowledge and cultivate well-rounded individuals. The world is changing at such an unprecedented pace, more than ever with a pandemic that crippled the entire globe for close to 2 years, that any university has to run hard to keep up with it. However, a university that regards itself as a ‘research university’ has to run at least twice as hard if not much more.
Realizing our Vision 2030, an ambitious objective, for which we have already made significant investments, changes and additions to our systems and resources and have kick-started a number of exciting new initiatives, can only be possible if we can ensure financial sustainability of our university in the long term. We shall thus continue aggressively on this exciting path, with a combination of academic and administrative initiatives undertaken with enhanced collaboration among all of our units across this great institution.
As we continue to recruit new faculty with the highest global standards, we keep in mind the fact that the massive numbers of new faculty joining our ranks since 2009 also greatly enhanced our scholarly output, which has grown by no less than fivefold even leaving out the Medical School, and by no less than tenfold including the Medical School.
Our outstanding cadre of research faculty have also been the drivers of the nearly 100-fold increase in total Sponsored Research Grants & Contracts, increasing from less than 2 million TL before 2009 to nearly 200 million TL in 2020. While we had only 3 European funded projects in 2009, our faculty brought a total of 18 Projects in 2020, totaling to 80M TL. The number of accepted TUBITAK projects increased by more than trifold, from 59 (1.7M TL) in 2009 to 205 (70M TL) in 2020.
The extraordinary growth of research productivity at our university was driven by aggressive increase in the number of our PhD students, from only about 85 in 2009 to nearly 660 in 2020, comprising no less than 10 percent of the total student body. We now have also set an objective of increasing the number of our PhD recruitment to 200 per year, more than double the number we currently have. We thus aim to increase our total number of PhD students from currently 650 to 1000 by the year 2030, as needed if we truly want to advance our lofty mission. We are also aiming to raise our currently high number of 83 post-doctoral scholars to about 200 by 2030, in order to multiplicatively enhance our scholarly output.
Koç University faculty are recognized nationally and internationally for their research; furthermore, we are delighted that our faculty lead the field in Turkey for research grants competitively acquired from the European Research Council and other international bodies and we are honored to have been entrusted with the establishment of several large-scale pioneering research centers, funded by state agencies and industry.
We have changed the narrative of our University; as we look ahead to our next decade, we have much to look forward to with research activities continuing at full throttle in 2022 and beyond.
With fall colors adorning our beautiful campus, we are blessed with scenes of the fall season all around us. Let us all enjoy the wonderful colors and the sedate and dignified disposition of the falling or fallen leaves as we await the busy winter months ahead with lots of research, teaching, learning and working.
We are also thrilled to be able to continue our communication with our community, as this Newsletter this month marks the fifth anniversary of our tradition of monthly Newsletters from the Office of the President.
As we extend our best regards to you all, please continue to be cautious, be healthy, take care of yourselves and your families.
Zeynep Gürhan Canlı
Vice President for Academic Affairs
Advisor to the Board of Trustees