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Following a recent court decision, the European University Association (EUA) calls on Turkish authorities to seize the opportunity to thoroughly reconsider how university rectors are appointed.

On 4 June 2024, the Turkish Constitutional Court declared several provisions of Decree 703 unconstitutional and consequently nullified them. This decree, enacted in 2018, granted the country’s president the authority to legislate through decrees rather than formal laws. Notably, one of the annulled provisions pertains to the appointment of rectors, which had been vested in the president since 2016.

These rules, which have now been invalidated by the Constitutional Court, weakened the general principles of institutional autonomy upheld by the European university community. Since 2016, the president has appointed rectors; at first, the president’s choice was among candidates who received the most votes at an election internal to the university. After the law was amended in 2018, the selection and appointment process has been carried out without any involvement of higher education institutions and their members.

EUA has repeatedly stated that this practice diverges significantly from higher education systems elsewhere in Europe, and has highlighted the international higher education community’s criticism of the perceived lack of university autonomy in the country. According to EUA’s Autonomy Scorecard, no other European system allows the head of state or government to directly select and appoint rectors. Instead, European practice typically involves formal validation of internally made choices by the university itself, with limited external involvement.

Reforming the rectoral appointment procedure, in collaboration with the higher education sector and with due consideration of international good practice, would be a positive step forward for Turkish universities. In response to the annulment decision, authorities have one year to enact new legislation on this matter. In the meantime, appointments by decree may continue, and the court decision has no retroactive impact. EUA stands ready to support the higher education system of Türkiye by offering its expertise in university governance models, based on its extensive work in this area, including the EUA Autonomy Scorecard, which was most recently updated in 2023.


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