Top court rules Turkish president’s appointment of university rectors unconstitutional / DUVAR

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) has annulled articles of the presidential decree that gave the president the authority to appoint university rectors directly. 

Duvar English, June 5, 2024

The Constitutional Court (AYM) on June 4 annulled articles from a Presidential decree regarding the appointment of university rectors by the President of Turkey. 

The decision concerned several articles of the Presidential Decree (KHK) No. 703 dated 2018. Some of the articles amended the Law on Higher Education, granting the Turkish President the authority to appoint rectors to public and foundation universities.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) had applied to the court to review the decree, according to reporting by the daily BirGün

The Constitutional Court stated that the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) previously held the authority to nominate candidates for rector appointments, and the law required all rector candidates to have served at least three years as a professor. 

With the presidential decree, YÖK was taken out of the appointment process entirely, and the three-year requirement was removed from the text.

The court found that “university autonomy” was nonexistent in this case, where the president held all authority to appoint a rector and no qualifications were sought for prospective rectors.

The court concluded that the Decree Law in question was unconstitutional since it amended a regulation beyond its scope. 

Accordingly, the decision will come into force 12 months after it is published in the Official Gazette. 

Turkey’s academic community has been speaking out against the appointment of their rectors by the president. 

The issue gained public attention after Jan. 2021, when a wave of protests broke out at the prestigious Boğaziçi University in Istanbul when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed outsider, pro-governmental Melih Bulu as rector.

During the protests, many students were brutalized, arrested, and expelled from the university.  

Meanwhile, members of the Boğaziçi faculty continue their daily protest against the trustee rectorate.

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