On June 16, 2021, Turkey’s Interuniversity Board declined to certify the equivalence of a scholar’s doctoral degree that they obtained in the United States, a decision that effectively bars them from academic employment in the country.
The Interuniversity Board (“Üniversitelerarası Kurul” or “ÜAK”), a state authority that determines whether internationally-educated applicants obtained their degree through formal education and whether the university that granted the degree is recognized in Turkey, rejected the application of Mehmet Baki Deniz, who obtained his doctoral degree in sociology from the State University of New York Binghamton (SUNY-Binghamton).
In May 2020, Deniz submitted to ÜAK the requisite materials for degree certification, including his thesis, titled “Who Rules Turkey Between 1980 and 2008? Business Power and the Rise of Authoritarian Populism.” In their June 2021 decision declining certify Deniz’s PhD, the Board cited “the content and subject” of the thesis, without providing any further explanation.
Without the certification of his PhD, Deniz is effectively unable to find academic employment in Turkey. Deniz’s lawyer has since appealed the ÜAK’s decision with Turkey’s Council of State (“Danıştay”), the highest administrative court, claiming that it violates Article 27 of Turkey’s Constitution, which protects “the right to study and teach, express, and disseminate science and the arts, and to carry out research in these fields freely.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned by a government agency’s rejection of a scholar’s credential equivalency request, apparently based on political considerations, which effectively bars that scholar from seeking employment in their country. State authorities should refrain from taking such considerations in evaluating such requests, basing their decisions on the relevant standards of the academic discipline at hand. Administrative actions that punish responsible academic conduct and content based on political considerations undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.