President’s doctor to lead new Turkish medical university

Health leaders express fears for institution’s independence after Erdoğan appoints his physician and party deputy 

July 22, 2015
Istanbul Erdogan medical rector health sciences university anger
Source: iStock

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been criticised for appointing his personal doctor to be head of a new medical university.

Cevdet Erdöl, who is also a deputy in Mr Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), is to become rector of the newly opened Health Sciences University, Hürriyet Daily News reported.

The Istanbul-based university will exercise an influence over all training and research hospitals across the country, the paper said.

Professor Erdöl’s appointment has been been criticised by the Turkish Medical Association, which claims that it is another example of the AKP’s efforts to expand its influence over more aspects of life in Turkey.

“The naming of a political figure as the rector of a university is a typical example of the AKP’s moves to control everything,”  Beyazıt İlhan, head of the Turkish Medical Association, told Hürriyet Daily News.

“The people who study in the Health Sciences University will be appointed to training and research hospitals across the country, and these hospitals will therefore come under the control of the party,” he added.

The row comes amid continuing calls for greater university autonomy in Turkey, where political interference in elections for university leaders has been criticised and where candidates loyal to Mr Erdoğan have been selected over those who won the most faculty votes.

The creation of new universities has also been controversial. Critics have claimed that these institutions have been used by Mr Erdoğan to promote his plans for a “religious and conservative generation” in defiance of the country’s secular founding principles.

Dr İlhan said that the Health Sciences University has been designed to be “under the political will of the government”, noting that its board of trustees will be headed by the undersecretary of the Health Ministry.

Installing Professor Erdöl as rector “openly shows that the AKP has designed the university as its backyard”, Dr İlhan added.

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