[R6503] Academic Freedom under Authoritarian Constraints in Turkey

Created by Baki Tezcan
Thursday, 12/02/21 2:00 pm


Academic freedom in Turkey has long faced deep challenges, but never has the autonomy of the university, the right to conduct research and the protection of academics from politicized prosecution ever been more imperiled. Since 2016, hundreds of academics at public and private universities have been summarily dismissed and even framed as national security threats for having signed a peace petition, over a dozen universities were expropriated and closed by government action, and control over the governance of universities has shifted from higher education bodies to the direct authority of the executive branch in the person of Turkey’s president. One recent manifestation of this assault on academic freedom and university autonomy was the government’s effective takeover of one of the country’s most prestigious public universities, Istanbul’s storied Boğaziçi (or Bosphorus) University. At a time when the government has effectively terminated the independence of the judiciary, abrogated the constitutional separation of powers and consolidated government authorities in the hands of an all-powerful presidency, how can research, scholarship and teaching in higher education survive the increasingly constrained authoritarian setting in Turkey?

This roundtable will analyze the mechanisms through which academic freedom is increasingly compromised in Turkey, how this fits into a broader pattern of authoritarian consolidation in Turkey and beyond, and the resources academics, students and allies of higher education are exploring to resist encroachment by the government and sustain forms of knowledge production and solidarity even under these dire circumstances. We will discuss how the Turkish government denies academic freedom by law, which is to say how the assault on higher education has proceeded through changes to the regulatory, legal and constitutional framework encompassing the autonomy and rights of universities and academics. We will specifically address how the transition to the presidential system intensified the erosion of the autonomy of universities. We will also consider the place of the university within the economy and analyze the relationship between academic freedom and militarization. Finally, we will provide comparative cases from the Philippines, India, Venezuela, Brazil, Russia, Hungary, and Poland with a view to contextualize how legality is used in the service of authoritarian practices globally.


One or two of the presenters in this group might not be able to attend the session in person as they work in Turkey. Some of the others will use university research and/or travel grants and others will use their personal funds.


Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association (OTSA)


Pol Science; Pol Science; Pol Science; Pol Science; Pol Science; Pol Science



Ayse G. Kadioglu

(Sabanci University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Asli Bali

(UCLA School of Law)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Asli Z. Igsiz

(New York University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Baki Tezcan

(University of California, Davis)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Organizer;

Salih Aciksoz

(University of California, Los Angeles)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Asli Odman

(Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Zehra Arat

(University of Connecticut)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;