The European University Association has “strongly and unconditionally” condemned the forced resignation of hundreds of deans from higher education institutions in Turkey in the wake of the failed coup attempt in the country.
Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper reported on 19 July that the country's Higher Education Council had ordered the resignation of all deans from both public and foundation universities: 1,176 from state institutions and 401 from foundation institutions, the EUA said in a statement.
“The EUA condemns strongly and unconditionally this action against universities and university staff, and expresses its heartfelt support for the higher education community in Turkey at this time,” the statement went on.
“While there has been global and unanimous support for the democratically elected government of Turkey in reaction to the military coup, the measures introduced today go in the wrong direction.
“More than ever Turkey needs freedom of speech, public and open debate, as advocated by its strong university sector, committed to internationally recognised university values, the principles of academic freedom, free expression and freedom of association.”
The EUA said it was calling on all “European governments, universities and scholars to speak out against these developments and to support democracy in Turkey, including institutional autonomy and academic freedom for scholars and students”.
As well as the forced resignation of the deans, it was also reported on 19 July that more than 15,000 education staff had been suspended from their posts in a purge of state officials by the ruling government that has already affected the police, military and judiciary.
And on 20 July, reports emerged that universities had also been told by the Higher Education Council that academics should not travel abroad for work and those working overseas should return to Turkey "within the shortest possible time".
Even before the coup attempt, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had been widely criticised in Europe and beyond for his treatment of academics in the country, many of whom have been arrested or sacked from their posts.