Vacancies for rector positions at Turkish universities

Vacancies for rector positions at Turkish universities

Now is not the time or place to laugh. I’m not in the mood to laugh at all. But I just had a good laugh thanks to Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK). It made my day. 

I was laughing at the report in daily Hürriyet that YÖK recently posted vacancy adverts, looking for rectors for 19 universities across the country.

Let us roll back the film a little. Back on Aug. 18, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) wanted to add a clause to an omnibus bill that was submitted for debate in parliament. According to this amendment, all rectors of state universities would be proposed by YÖK, with one prerequisite being that they have been a professor for at least three years. YÖK would propose three candidates to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, from which he would choose one. The candidate selected by the president would be appointed as the new rector. 

Upon severe opposition by three opposition parties in parliament, the AKP reviewed the matter and withdrew the amendment.  

Many days have passed since this, with many shocking developments happening in the country. Then on Oct. 18, at an academic year opening ceremony held at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, there was plenty of discussion about the future of academia. 

At the reception, President Erdoğan told academics that he believed it was better for universities in our country to abandon the current method of appointing rectors.

Undoubtedly, it was this speech that led to the withdrawn amendment of Aug. 18 being enacted exactly 11 days later. Article 676 of a statutory decree (KHK) was introduced in the Official Gazette on Oct. 29. It ruled that neither state nor private universities would elect their rectors, but instead would have a president-appointed rector.  

New criteria for being eligible for rector positions in universities were determined. The criteria stated that the candidate should at have at least three years of experience as a professor, should not have a history as a legally charged civil servant, and should be no older than 67. 

Candidates would now have to apply for rector positions by attaching their academic CVs. YÖK would then review the applications and present three of them to the president. If the president does not respond within one month and if YÖK does not propose another name within the next 15 days, then the president can appoint any person he wants. 

The YÖK rector vacancy posting reported in Hürriyet describes the situation very well. YÖK is looking for rectors to fill vacancies in 19 universities, but it has no say in the entire procedure. YÖK has no influence whatsoever on the selection process. 

Universities in Turkey have no autonomy left. They have completely lost the right to elect their own rectors. 
Gülay Barbarosoğlu, who won 348 out of the overall 403 votes, was elected rector of Boğaziçi University earlier this year. However, this was ignored and she was not appointed to the position. 

Barbarosoğlu has been a professor for 16 years. She became rector first by becoming the head of a department at the university, then the deputy rector, and later won elections to become the university’s rector during the presidency of Abdullah Gül. She was not even known as a particularly “hawkish opposition” figure. In sum, she did not even have anything strikingly contrary to the criteria. 

Dear YÖK, we are breathing the same air. We should be able to understand each other. So what are you trying to do? What are you looking for? Why do you put yourself in such a ridiculous position? 

You are wasting your budget on such unnecessary postings. Let the president appoint the rectors.

I don’t want to upset you. But if you keep posting the ads you will only continue to look absolutely ridiculous.