The management of Istanbul’s Şehir University, which recently became the subject of controversy between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and ex-prominent figures of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has been turned over to Marmara University, which was previously designated as the former’s “guarantor” institution.
Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK) cited the university’s “financial situation” as the reason of the transfer. It said in a statement released on Dec. 19 that the university’s official authorization was temporarily halted and Marmara University will take over the university’s administration as its “guarantor.”
“Since it has been understood that the university’s current financial situation has made the education and training activities unsustainable and will the worsen the damage on the academic and administrative personnel; and that the disruption of the education and training activities is now inevitable; it has been decided that Istanbul Şehir University’s official authorization be temporarily halted and its management be turned over to its guarantor Marmara University,” YÖK said.
During this period, both YÖK and Marmara University will “pay utmost attention and sensitivity” for students not to be negatively affected, said the statement further.
Şehir University, established in 2008 as a private university, has been for a while now facing financial problems. A court earlier this year ordered a freeze on Şehir’s assets after state-owned Halk Bank asked for an arrestment of funds based on its concern that the university would not be able to pay back the $70 million credit it had taken from them.
But, for many, the issue is beyond a financial concern and stems from divisions within the AKP, as the university has Ahmet Davuoğlu among its founders, who announced on Dec. 13 the launch of its new political party named “Future Party.”
Davutoğlu served as prime minister between 2014 and 2016 before falling out with Erdoğan. On Sept. 13, he announced his resignation from the AKP, saying that the party was no longer able to solve the country’s problems and no longer allowed internal debate.
During a speech on Dec. 7, Erdoğan accused Davutoğlu of attempting to defraud Halkbank in bid to save Şehir University from financial crisis. The president also accused former Deputy Prime Ministers Ali Babacan and Mehmet Şimşek and former Transportation Minister Feridun Bilgin of being involved in the process. He claimed that they swindled Halbank by not making payments in time and by inappropriately allocating public land to Şehir University.
Babacan is also in the process of preparing a new political movement to rival the AKP. He previously said that he wants to form his party before the end of the year. Şimşek is also said to be in this new political initiative.