Nisantasi University is Blacklisted for Unlawful Treatment of Turkish and Foreign English Teachers
Nisantasi University Collectively Dismisses 40 Teachers Unlawfully
ISTANBUL, TURKEY, February 17th, 2019 Nisantasi University Neotech Campus (Turkish: Nişantaşı Üniversitesi
Neotech Kampüsü ) located at Ağaoğlu Maslak 1453 is being blacklisted due to misleading and misinforming their
teachers, not providing a legal written work contract, misusing the regulations of the Council of Higher Education
(YÖK) to mislead their teachers, not paying wages on time and missing insurance payments. Recently Nisantasi University
had illegally collectively dismissed 40 teachers from its Foreign Language department. The teachers are now
pursuing legal action.
In September 2018, Nişantaşı University Neotech Campus hired 19 new foreign teachers to teach Nişantaşı University's
Prep Year Program. Before being hired each teacher was sent an email from Nişantaşı University's HR office
with a list of the required documents to be submitted in compliance with the regulations of the Council of Higher Education
(YÖK) and Nisantasi University.
This list included the following: a letter of application, a completed identity and information form of the foreign national,
a copy their diploma and certificates including translations if they were not in English, a copy of the teacher’s
passport, 2 pictures and completed residency documents. No other requirements were listed.
Nişantaşı University's HR assured the teachers that everything was in order as long as they submitted the documents
on the list. One teacher had an invalid passport - being a Syrian refugee - and he was assured that there were no
issues regarding this and that everything was valid.
Although the teachers were asked by Nişantaşı University to start in September 2018 they didn't get their work permits
till the 10th of October, 2018. The teachers first wage was paid late and in cash. At the same time, the teachers
never received a written contract of the terms and conditions of their employment even though they continually
asked for it. The teachers were told that word of mouth and the fact that Nişantaşı University was paying their salaries
and their insurance was enough to prove that a full-time legal contract existed.
Also, Nişantaşı University insisted that everything was legal because the teachers had received their work permits
issued by both the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) and the Ministry of Labour.
The Council of Higher Education (YÖK) and the Ministry of Labour work together to check qualifications and assign
work permits within one month of employment. If teachers are deemed qualified by the Council of Higher Education
(YÖK) and the Ministry of Labour, they are issued a work permit valid for one year.
If for any reason other documents are requested by the university, the one year period gives the teacher ample time
to apply for the requested documents without disrupting the educational school year. Also, the Council of Higher Education
(YÖK) gives private universities autonomy as to how they choose to apply the regulations. The labor laws of
Turkey are clear on this issue.
By October 2018 the teachers were assigned their individual classes and clubs. They had their own course books,
pacing and also exam duties. In November 2018 the teachers were given a paper from the Nişantaşı University requesting
that they submit equivalency papers regarding their diplomas.
The equivalency process can take anywhere from two months to one year. In the letter that the teachers were given
by Nişantaşı University, it was written that the teachers had to submit equivalency papers by the 1st of February. The
teachers were told by Nişantaşı University that it would be enough if they just submitted the documents and made the
appointment. The teachers could then submit their appointment forms as proof that they had applied by the 1st of
The teachers prepared their documents and when they tried to apply they were told that they also needed to submit a
written work contract along with the equivalency application. This is stipulated in the YÖK Diploma Equivalency Application
section 19 article c. As you can see it is written that the documents to be submitted include official documents
stating that the candidate has signed a contract with a Turkish higher education institution if the candidate is
requesting the equivalency of their diploma to be used for the purpose of employment in Turkey.
The teachers informed Nişantaşı University and once again requested a signed written contract proving legal employment
because otherwise, they would be unable to apply for the equivalency that was requested by Nişantaşı University.
The teachers were then told by their manager to ‘sit on their documents’, meaning, to wait. Nothing more was
said or advised by anyone at Nişantaşı University.
A few weeks later, a rumor started to circulate that some teachers in the department were going to be fired. The rumor
was confirmed by the teachers’ coordinators and the reason given by HR and Nişantaşı University was that the
Council of Higher Education (YÖK) regulations “had suddenly changed”. Because of this “sudden change” some of
the teachers who had already received their work permits from the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) and the Ministry
of Labour were now “missing required documents.”
The “sudden requirements” of the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) regulations which had “suddenly
changed” mid-year according to Nişantaşı University and their HR were the requirements of 5 years teaching
experience in a diploma giving institution, a Masters in ELT, a degree in a related English teaching field, and a language
score. Who required what was unclear and the information kept changing.
The teachers were never given clear guidelines about what regulations were changed by the Council of Higher
Education (YÖK) and how they specifically applied to foreign teachers. At the same time, the teachers were
told by Nişantaşı University and HR that their CELTA, DELTA, and other language teaching qualifications were no
longer valid or recognized by the Council of Higher Education (YÖK).
The teachers were stunned, distraught and suddenly found themselves in a grey zone of uncertainty, working and not
knowing if and when they were going to be fired. This misinformation continued for three months.
The Rektor Prof. Dr. Esra HATİPOĞLU who knew about the situation and was instrumental in its organization tried
to distance herself from it by claiming that it was all the fault of the Council of Higher Education (YÖK). Furthermore,
the Rektor Prof. Dr. Esra HATİPOĞLU kept stalling meetings with the foreign language department coordinators. The
teachers did finally manage to meet with Rektor Prof. Dr. Esra HATİPOĞLU after they insisted that they be told what
was actually happening regarding their working situation.
In this meeting, Rektor Prof. Dr. Esra HATİPOĞLU assured the teachers that they were “like family here at Nişantaşı
University", and that she would never "kick them out." She continued by saying that it "would be bad for her and the
university’s reputation.” She even half-jokingly said that if she just threw them out on the street, they would surely tell
their friends, leaving her unable to find any "good teachers" to work for her.
On the 7th of February 2019, all the foreign teachers of the foreign language department were told to go to Nişantaşı
University's Senate Meeting Room. A security guard standing at the door allowed them to enter and they were told to
sit and wait. Then a group of people walked in and sat at the head of the table. They introduced themselves as Av. Ali
GÖRGÜLÜ, the university lawyer, the translator (who was also a teacher from another department) and a number of
people from Nişantaşı University HR office including Bahar SIVRI.
The lawyer started by telling the teachers that they were being fired and that their individual termination contracts
were already prepared and ready to be signed. If we agreed to sign the termination contracts and accept all the conditions
written therein right then and there, without the chance to seek legal advice, the teachers would be entitled to
two weeks pay.
The teachers were confused because first of all they never signed a written contract that could now be terminated.
They were sus*i*ious of the document and asked to be given a copy of the termination contract so that they could
seek legal advice and that they would bring it back in a few days. The lawyer Av. Ali GÖRGÜLÜ refused to allow the
teachers to see their individual termination contracts and refused them legal counsel before signing. Instead gave the
teachers a photocopied template of a generic termination contract written in both English and Turkish. He then began
to read out what he called ‘the valid reason’ for the termination of the teachers' employment. The reason lawyer Av. Ali
GÖRGÜLÜ gave for the termination of the teachers' contracts was that the teachers did not meet the new regulations
of the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) and therefore the regulations of Nişantaşı University. Also, because they
had failed to present the requested equivalency documents.
Av. Ali GÖRGÜLÜ further stated that if the teachers agreed to sign the current termination contract (which terminated
the original contract that the teachers had never been given and therefore never signed; their requests continually
ignored by Nişantaşı University) and if the teachers could submit the required new documents according to the new
regulations within two weeks, Nişantaşı University would be happy to sign a new contract with the teachers.
Both Av. Ali GÖRGÜLÜ and Nişantaşı University were essentially asking the teachers to do the impossible. No
teacher could suddenly acquire a Masters degree or provide proof of equivalency in two weeks.
The teachers were shocked and asked for their coordinators, who had been waiting outside the doors, to be present
at the meeting. The security guards barred them from entering, leaving the teachers alone in the meeting room to
fend for themselves, completely unprepared. In the end, the teachers demanded to be given their individual termination
contracts and to be given a few days to seek legal advice before signing.
Av. Ali GÖRGÜLÜ once again refused, and becoming more and more frustrated he told the teachers firmly that he
didn’t require our signatures to terminate our employment. That a verbal warning was enough and that the HR officials
present at the meeting would act as his witnesses that the teachers had refused to sign the termination contract.
Furthermore, he warned the teachers that their residency permits would be terminated and that we could be deported.
After this, Av. Ali GÖRGÜLÜ asked the teachers to sign an attendance sheet and the teachers once again refused.
They were not going to sign anything without legal advice. The 19 teachers present made this clear to both Av. Ali
GÖRGÜLÜ and those present from HR including Bahar SIVRI.
To add insult to injury, the lawyer kept comparing the teachers to forged money by saying that "one continues to use
forged money until one realizes that it is fake." Reflecting on this comment, the teachers realized that it said more
about Nişantaşı University and Av. Ali GÖRGÜLÜ then it said about the teachers who had all presented hard earned
qualifications and relevant documents. Still, the teachers couldn't help feeling that Nişantaşı University and Av. Ali
GÖRGÜLÜ were stating that they had collectively lied to them about their qualifications. At least, that was what was
implied by this tactless comment by Av. Ali GÖRGÜLÜ.
After more than 2 hours of discussion and repeated requests to see the termination contracts before signing and be
given a print out of the new regulations which the teachers were told were somewhere on the Council of Higher Education
(YÖK) website, the teachers realized that they had reached a stalemate and got up and left the meeting room
only to find out that the head coordinator had resigned. Apparently, he had been chastised for wanting to be present
at the meeting with the teachers by Rektor Prof. Dr. Esra HATİPOĞLU who reminded him that “she was the boss
The teachers sought legal advice the next day and were told by the lawyer what Nişantaşı University had done
was illegal on many counts. The teachers were also told that when the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) assigns
work permits with the Labour Ministry, it is always for one year and they only give them to those teachers that they
deem qualified. Furthermore, a teacher’s contract is not legally allowed to be terminated unless the teacher does
something illegal, doesn’t turn up for work or is ill with a contagious disease.
The autonomy that the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) gives to private institutions is not meant to be exercised at
will and arbitrarily applied. The hiring regulations of all universities must be set out prior to employment and signing of
a contract. While preparing their documents for the legal case, the teachers discovered on e-Devlet that there were
discrepancies in insurance payments made by the Nisantasi University on the teachers behalf. This in itself is illegal.
In February 2019 a total of 40 teachers were fired: 19 from the Preparatory Year Program at Nisantasi University combined
with teachers teaching vocational English and those teaching English to Nişantaşı University faculty members.
The official termination papers were emailed to the teachers a week later. Please keep in mind that the teachers never
received a written work contract to sign in the first place and that Nişantaşı University ignored there constant requests
to receive one. The teachers never saw or signed any written contract because Nişantaşı University
refused to give them one even though Nişantaşı University promised to.
It included the following statements: ‘... your employment contract as a lecturer with our institution was terminated
immediately for a VALID reason...".
The 'valid' reason for termination is listed as “not meeting some of the criteria: equivalency certificate, related bachelor
degree, valid language score, minimum 5 years experience from institutions that issue diplomas or a masters degree
designated and required by the Council of Higher Education and not submitting the required documents in the
given period. It has been revealed that it is not possible to actually complete it even though you have been asked to
complete the stated documents.”
(Please note the statement: "It has been revealed that it is not possible to actually complete it even though you have
been asked to complete the stated documents." How can the teachers submit a document that Nişantaşı University
and Av. Ali GÖRGÜLÜ themselves recognize is not possible to complete?)
The termination letter goes on to say: “Your employment contract has been terminated for justified reasons, in accordance
with Article 25 /II-a of the Labour Law No.4857.: “When the employment contract is made, the employee is
misleading by the employer by asserting that he or she is in possession of the necessary qualifications or conditions
for one of the essential points of this contract, or by saying the information or words that are not true.”
Not only did Nişantaşı University and Av. Ali GÖRGÜLÜ unlawfully dismiss the teachers, but they also accused
the teachers of lying to them when the teachers had in fact lawfully submitted all the required original
documents that they had originally asked for. Moreover, these documents were accepted and approved by
the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) who granted all the teachers their working permits.
The teachers have collectively decided to place Nişantaşı University on the blacklist in order to protect other teachers
from the unlawful hiring and firing practices of Nişantaşı University. The teachers want to stress that there are many
reputable universities in Istanbul but that Nişantaşı University is unfortunately not one of them.
The teachers who have now been unlawfully dismissed are pursuing legal action against Nişantaşı University.
UPDATE AS OF FEBRUARY 17th, 2019
The teachers have been informed by others close to the university that Nişantaşı University has started hiring new
teachers to replace the ones that they had fired. Nişantaşı University is hiring these new teachers WITHOUT requiring
them to submit to the ‘new’ regulations. They are also offering new teachers lower salaries for more work
hours. Students studying English as a second language at Nişantaşı University are now being placed in large classes
where the ratio is 1 teacher to 40 and sometimes 60 students. This clearly shows that Nişantaşı University has no
regard for both the quality of education they are offering their students and the working conditions they are offering
USEFUL WEBSITES REGARDING THE ISSUES DISCUSSED HERE:
Turkish Labour Law in English
Council of Higher Education (YÖK)
YÖK Diploma Equivalency