Interview with Ekrem Demirtaş

Could you tell us about your education?
I lived in Milas where I studied at primary and secondary school. There was no high school in Milas at that time. I would have gone to Aydın or Izmir, but some of our older relatives insisted on sending me to Istanbul for high school so I went to Istanbul Kabatas Erkek Lisesi.
How did your education affect your business life?
When I went to Istanbul for high school, I had to stay in the dormitory. The advantages of living at the dormitory are that you can make your own decisions and determine when you should study or go out. That has affected my business life. Therefore, our new project, Bilim College of Economy will be a kind of boarding school. When the students come to study in secondary school, they will have to stay at the school for the first year; when they come for high school, it will be compulsory to live in the dormitory. The campus that will house the Engineering faculty in Guzelbahce will be the same. In the first year, they will have to stay in the dormitory, too. For that reason, you can easily socialise with your friends, resulting in a good synergy. Also, your family can’t interfere with your life. You have to arrange your bed time, free times and study times. You learn how to be self-sufficient.

How was you university life?
I had my mind set on Izmir for my university life. At the beginning, I thought about political education. That’s why I came to Izmir, to go into politics. However, politics became of secondary importance because I had to have my financial independence. Without financial independence, you can not do anything. Once I started in business, I couldn’t escape.

When you look back at the past now, would you like to work as a politician?
I don’t, but I have to say that I have been the President of the Izmir Chamber of Commerce (IZTO) for 25 years. If I had been working in my own business for these 25 years, I would have been even more successful. But, it is nice to serve the public too.

Why did you establish IUE?
It is nice to serve the public, but it is better to serve the youth. Establishing this university is the best thing I have ever done. Seeing you (the youth) in better places makes me happy. I couldn’t be happier than this. Maybe this education that we give you here is difficult for you, but we want to train you in the best possible way. We don’t want to give you a diploma and send you away to find a job. We want to be sure that you get a training which makes you different from other university graduates. Every year, 10 million people graduate from university. We want you to be placed near the top. In our 15 years, our graduates have had great success. They don’t have any unemployment problems. Employers are pleased with our students performance. The ones who have set up their own business are also really successful.

Why is English so important? What do you think about second foreign languages?
Today, in the world, people who don’t know English are the same as people who aren’t literate. A second foreign language is very important, too. It is the main chance you have at making a difference. For example, you know Spanish as a second language and a Spanish firm is going to invest in Izmir. You know English and also Spanish. Then, you have eliminated the others already. You are the lucky one. Our aim is teaching three languages, but it is hard to learn a new language after a certain age. That’s why, we are planning to teach three languages beginning from the third year of primary school at Bilim College.

After Bilim College, will the Preparatory School remain the same?
It should because the students who come from different high schools may not have the highest levels of English. But in time, preparatory schools will be closed because students will be taking English classes in their primary, secondary schools and colleges. It has started in public schools, too. However, Foreign Language Schools will be the same because students need other languages.
What do you think about the PACTS Office and the activities we have done?
Normally, in this university, if someone wants to do something, they come to me immediately to tell me the plan and ask for money. But, you did all of these things on your own. That is really something to appreciate.

We have heard some rumours about Yelki. Do you have any plans there?
There are over a thousand teachers in this school and I wanted to find a place where teachers can live safely. We were planning a housing project with studio apartments for socializing. However, I haven’t been able to find any good space so far.