Turkey’s plight

August 18, 2016

I declare an interest in the fate of Turkish academic colleagues, as a university teacher of Armenian heritage (“‘Witch-hunt’ against academics continues following attempted Turkey coup”, www.timeshighereducation.com, 11 August). The waves of repression after the recent failed coup are ringing unpleasant alarm bells. Turkey’s President Erdoğan blames recent unrest and rebellion on a “deep state” of officials in key places, including the education sector in general, and universities in particular.

Caught up in this maelstrom are Turkish educators: 21,000 school teachers have had their licences revoked, and all 1,577 university deans have been forced to resign, while 6,500 staff of Turkey’s education ministry have been suspended and there are 9,000 public servants in state custody. Even before the coup, academics were in trouble with the regime: in late June, for example, an Academics for Peace initiative was targeted by authorities, with 21 staff at Mersin City University facing “serious threats and sanctions”. And yet, the higher education system is centralised, with all institutions tied to the Council of Higher Education. This council has 21 members all “subject to approval by the President of the Turkish Republic”. The president also signs off the appointment of rectors to the country’s state universities. Wherefore academic freedom?

And so it is that more than 40 UK National Teaching Fellows have signed a petition expressing “deep concern at the recent state actions against thousands of individuals in Turkey’s universities and colleges in what appears to be an indiscriminate repression of dissent and independent thought”.

The NTFs go on to argue that “there is a danger that, if not quickly reversed, there will be irreparable damage to the reputation and operation of Turkey’s higher education sector and the student experience of learning”.

“While we recognise the right of an elected government to protect democracy, we cannot accept that this includes the indiscriminate targeting of academics or the need to dictate or manipulate what should and should not be taught in higher education where freedom of thought is paramount.”

Now, surely, is a time for evidence-led decision-making, for robust negotiation about the country’s future, and for citizens and students able to exercise judicious and critical thinking and action, built on the backs of effective and independent universities, teachers and researchers.

James Derounian
National Teaching Fellow
University of Gloucestershire

Send to

Letters should be sent to: THE.Letters@tesglobal.com
Letters for publication in Times Higher Education should arrive by 9am Monday.
View terms and conditions.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Researcher in Fluid Dynamics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu


Greenwich School Of Management Ltd

PhD Research Fellow in Medical Physics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Postdoctoral position in Atmospheric and Space Physics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

PhD Fellow in Machine Learning

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu
See all jobs

Most Commented

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework

people dressed in game of thrones costume

Old Germanic languages are back in vogue, but what value are they to a modern-day graduate? Alice Durrans writes