Koç University – Istambul, Türkiye

Koç University has a Diversity, Inclusion and Disabled Student Coordination Office. The office was initially established by the Koç University administration. Currently, this project supports mainly persons with disabilities, low-income students, first generation students, students with refugee or migrant backgrounds, LGBTQ students/staff and students of colour. These equity groups were proposed/identified by national plan/legislation or by university’s internal policies. Koç University has targets for access for specific equity groups.

The activities that the department has carried out (in the last two years) with regard to equal access/inclusion/diversity are:
support and counselling for students and university staff;
lectures, workshops, seminars for students, faculty and non-teaching staff;
training courses for peer educators;
improving digital accessibility;
improving physical accessibility.
“The Sign Language Education” program, which is designed to improve basic knowledge and daily speaking skills, is prepared in cooperation with the “Association of Educational Activities for the Hearing Impaired” and AVIS “We Speak the Same Language” project support. Koç University has presented it to all employees;
Online seminar and exhibition within the scope of “Autism Awareness Days” that took place at Koç University Hospital;
Organization of seminar series called “Our Differences Are Our Rich”;
Organization of seminar series called “Sensitivity Training”.

The activity with the greatest impact was the Sign Language Training and Sensitivity Training as they were provided to all administrative and academic staff of the school. The last innovative practise/tool introduced at this university when it comes to ensuring inclusion, diversity and equal access made Koc University to win the “Campus without Barriers Awards ” (organized by The Turkish Council of Higher Education) and Koç University Rumelifeneri Campus has received Turkish Higher Education Council’s (YÖK) “A Campus with no Obstacles for the Physically Hindered” Orange Flag Award. In addition to activities to support inclusion, Koc University implements measures/activities to counter exclusionary and discriminatory practices through binding policy (legislation) and recommendations/guidelines.

The motivation for establishing this office was initially to support the integration of disabled students into academic, social and campus life. Later, its content was developed to include disadvantaged students other than those with disabilities, such as socio-cultural differences and to promote gender equality. The factors crucial for the institutional leadership in deciding to establish a service for wider access/inclusion/diversity for students/staff was to ensure equal participation in university life for all Koç University students with differences such as religion, gender, language, disability and cultural characteristics. In addition, it contributes to receiving, reporting and monitoring student applications regarding unequal or discriminatory practices, attitudes and situations. This is a successful project because there is, above all, a healthy and sincere communication with students.
There are specific laws and guidelines for Higher Education Institutions in Turkey
Diversity, Inclusion and Disabled Student Coordination Office has a coordinator and 11 assistant undergraduate Students. Diversity, inclusion and equality topics are mentioned in this office and at the university’s strategies, policies and work plans. At Koç University, most of the decisions and contributions to the project design are made by the Diversity, Inclusion and Disabled Student Coordination Unit (part of the Dean of Student), office coordinator and office committee. The university is part of local, regional, national and European networks. The outcomes from these networks are mostly to see the best practices of different schools and institutions and to partner with them, to ensure the interaction of students/staff from both sides.
The main challenges to establishing this service was to work more with less people power. This office is funded by Koç University. Despite the office having stable funding, some work is dependent on unpaid volunteers. However, Koç University provides pocket money to support the peers who support students with disabilities.
Koç University has a formal evaluation process of this office. The indicators used to measure success are mostly (student satisfaction) surveys. The evaluation data is collected by the Academic Strategy and Analysis Directorate of the University. Once the information is analyzed, the outcomes are sent to the related units as feedback. Those units can then revise their practices in line with the information received.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Disabled Students Coordination Office

Istambul, Türkiye