'Sweeping reform' for Turkey

November 29, 2002

Turkey's universities face certain change after the Islamic-rooted AK party's landslide victory in elections earlier this month.

Party leader Tayyip Erdogan promised "sweeping reform" of the higher education authority (Yok), which was created by the military after it seized power in 1980. The authority has resisted Islamic influences on universities.

The constitution grants Yok great autonomy, but the scale of the AK party's victory means it is only two votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to reform the constitution. It is predicted to secure the votes it needs.

Since 1997, Yok has had a "zero-tolerance" policy on the wearing of religious headscarves in universities. Chief executive Kemal Guruz has been at the forefront of efforts to purge universities of faculty accused of carrying out "fundamentalist activities".

Dr Guruz's position is expected to come under pressure. He is appointed by a board selected by Yok and the president. The military, with two representatives on the board, is seen as the driving force behind the crackdown on Islamic influences in universities and is Dr Guruz's strongest supporter.

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