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University autonomy in Turkey: First impact of new decrees

15 November 2016

Following the recent news of further infringements on university autonomy and academic freedom reflected in two decrees (675 and 676) published in the Turkish Official Journal on 29 October 2016, the concerns of the EUA have been confirmed with the first impact of the new decrees.

They state that university rectors will no longer be elected, but appointed by the President of the Republic who will take the decision based upon three candidates proposed by the Turkish Council of Higher Education (YÖK). In exceptional cases a direct appointment of the university rector by the President of the Republic is possible, without any involvement of YÖK. 

The first outcome of these recent decrees is that EUA Board member, Gülay Barbarosoglu, is no longer President of Bogaziçi University in Istanbul, despite the record number of votes she received in the elections that were held in the university on 12 July 2016.

More specifically:

  • Elections for the period 2016-2020 took place on 12 July 2016 in 18 public Turkish universities, including Bogaziçi University.
  • Gülay Barbarosoglu received 348 out of 399 votes in her university, with a turnout of 90%.
  • At 17 of the 18 universities in which elections were held, appointments were made immediately.
  • No decision was taken for Bogaziçi University. Professor Barbarosoglu therefore continued in her capacity as Rector.
  • On 12 November 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan directly appointed Professor Mehmed Özkan as Rector of Bogaziçi University for the period 2016-2020. Professor Özkan was previously a Vice-Rector at Bogaziçi University.
In this context, EUA once more emphasises its solidarity with the Turkish academic community, and in particular with its Board member Gülay Barbarosoglu, and  underlines the importance of standing up for university values and remaining committed to the internationally recognised principles of university autonomy and academic freedom which are under ever greater pressure in Turkey.

European University Association (EUA)

Brussels office:
Avenue de l’Yser, 24
1040 Brussels
Belgium
Tel: +32 (0) 2 230 55 44

Geneva office:
114, Rue du Rhône
Case postale 3174
1211 Geneva 3
Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 552 02 96