Zeynep Günder, 2020-2021 Academic Year Jean Monnet Scholar

School / Department: University of Southampton, MSc in Sociology and International Social Policy

Institution and Position: Social Security Institution / Senior Advisor

  1. Could you tell us a little about yourself? How has your career been shaped?

I started my career in the banking sector in 2004. In 2008, I got a job as an Assistant Accounting Auditor at the Ministry of Treasury and Finance. In 2009, I was appointed to the Social Security Institution as a Social Security Expert. As you know, public institutions in Türkiye have accelerated their efforts for harmonisation with the European Union since 2006. I believed that if I became familiar with the social security systems implemented in the EU member countries, I could contribute to the creation of a more modern and egalitarian social security structure in Türkiye. For this reason, I volunteered to work on EU projects in my institution. I attended the basic EU training offered by Ankara University European Communities Research and Application Centre and insisted on working in my institution’s European Union and Foreign Relations Department. However, my knowledge of the EU was being shaped in a limited area within the framework of my career. I thought that for the development of my career, I needed to understand the whole of this unique structure, and I completed my Master’s degree in European Studies at Middle East Technical University. In my master’s thesis titled “European Union Non-Discrimination Principle: Rereading Statutory Social Security Schemes in Türkiye”, which I wrote under the supervision of my esteemed professor, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Gamze Öz, I analysed the compliance of the social security regulations implemented in Türkiye with the prohibition of discrimination in the EU. I can say that my articles named “Turkish Social Security System from the Perspective of the European Union Gender Equality Principle” and “a View on the Social Security Legislation in Türkiye from the Perspective of the European Union’s Prohibition of National Origin Discrimination”, which I derived from my aforementioned thesis in 2020, are the expression of my dream of a more egalitarian social security system in our country. In these studies, I tried to identify the regulations that could be implemented by focusing on gender and citizenship-based differences in the Social Insurance and General Health Insurance Act, and the Unemployment Insurance Act. Finally, in 2021, I completed my MSc in Sociology and International Social Policy at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom with the privilege of the Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme. Currently, I am the senior advisor to the President of the Social Security Institution, Mr. Cevdet Ceylan. I contribute to the work in the field of social security with the knowledge and experience I have gained. My dream of strengthening human rights in the field of social security and improving modern living standards in our country has been influential in shaping my career and education life.


  1. Could you give some information about the university you studied at with the Jean Monnet Scholarship and the subject you pursued your study on?

The University of Southampton, where I studied in the UK with the Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme, is among the top 100 universities in the world. I should mention that the university’s educational and campus opportunities are particularly diverse. The Sociology and International Social Policy Master’s Programme has been instrumental in my understanding of developments not only in EU member countries and the United Kingdom, but also in different parts of the world. In this way, I was able to better understand the impact of developments around the world on Türkiye. During my postgraduate education, I also had the opportunity to do research in the field of gerontology (ageing process and ageing science), which has become an increasingly important subject in recent years. As in the rest of the world, the population is ageing in EU member countries and in Türkiye, and therefore more emphasis is placed on policies for the elderly in the field of social policy. In this context, I should state that the developments in elderly care services aiming at helping the elderly lead an independent life and the diversification in related technological products offer important opportunities. On the other hand, the importance of family support in increasing the welfare of the elderly is increasing. For this reason, I should add that although we tend to forget, the preservation of family ties, one of the most

important values in our country, is a significant factor.


  1. How did the education you completed within the Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme affect your

understanding of the European Union?

“United in Diversity” is among the important values emphasised by the EU. This concept expresses the richness that emerges when individuals from different traditions, cultures and identities come together. My education, which I completed thanks to the Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme, also gave me the opportunity to get to know and understand different cultures. More importantly, the year I completed my master’s degree was a time when the world stood together to fight the COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, as Jean Monnet, one of the founders of the EU, said in his statement “Crises are the great unifier”, we once again understood that the way to protect ourselves is to protect others in the process. In this sense, it was an unforgettable experience to have the same concerns with students from all over the world and to realise the importance of being together for improvement.


  1. What advice would you like to give to those who want to apply for a Jean Monnet Scholarship?

As you know, within the scope of the Programme, scholarship holders can participate in postgraduate or research programmes that last for a maximum of 12 months. It is a unique opportunity to receive graduate education in a short period of one year under the guidance of esteemed professors in the world’s leading universities. At the same time, I would like to express that a tough year that requires focusing is waiting for them. For this reason, I recommend Jean Monnet scholarship candidates to choose an area which they are curious about, want to develop themselves in, and ultimately aim to contribute to our country. Therefore, I think it is important for them to spend time meticulously to find the university and programme they will choose, as well as the preparation process for the written exam of the Jean Monnet Scholarship Programme. In order to gain the advantage of being the one to choose and not the chosen one, I would recommend them to expand their university and programme applications as much as possible. Finally, I think that candidate scholars should be skilled in not refraining from criticising what they have learned and in approaching issues from different perspectives. In this sense, I would recommend that whilst understanding the European Union and positioning Türkiye within this great structure, they should evaluate the impact on each other.