Concerns Raised About Turkish Law on Private Universities

January 11, 2016

Middle East Studies scholars are concerned about a new Turkish law that grants the Higher Education Council (YOK, by its Turkish acronym) authority to close private universities if their administrators “execute or support activities against the state’s indivisible integrity.” In a letter to Turkey’s prime minister, the Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom described YOK's new regulatory powers as “emblematic of the increasing encroachment on academic freedom in Turkey over the last decade.”

“Under the new law, YOK would be empowered to seize control of private universities, appoint new administrators and place a private institution under the authority of an existing state university based on a YOK determination,” the committee wrote.

“In addition, the new law permits YOK to suspend specific programs at a private university, suspend the admission of new students and even shut down a university indefinitely. These astonishingly extensive powers can be triggered by minor procedural violations such as not providing YOK with timely access to documentation for its inspection activities. Equally troubling, the phrase 'activities against the state’s indivisible integrity' in the new law is both broad and vague, raising the prospect that it might be deployed to punish those deemed to be political opponents of the current government.”

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