More than a thousand Turkish university staff have been ordered to resign their faculty leadership positions—and others expect to be sacked—in the aftermath of the country’s failed coup on July 15.

As president Recep Tayyip Erdoan continues to clamp down on political opposition, the Turkish Council of Higher Education (YÖK) has called for all 1,577 of the country’s university deans—the staff that head up each institution’s various academic faculties—to leave their posts.

Many of the deans may ultimately be re-appointed, but researchers say the move is designed to ensure that Erdoan maintains tight political control over the education sector, following earlier purges of the country’s military, judiciary and police.

At an emergency meeting of 165 university rectors on July 18 in Ankara, YÖK had told university rectors to identify academics and administrators with connections to the Gülen movement—a religious and social organization that Erdoan considers to be behind the coup—and to take steps to expel them. The council did not invite a further 28 rectors to that meeting, saying that their universities are suspected of being pro-Gülenist. Some of these institutions will be taken over by the state, YÖK said. 

A researcher who did not want to be identified adds that all vacations at universities have also been cancelled, and that those on holiday have been asked to return.

In Turkey’s schools, some 15,000 schoolteachers have been suspended and are under investigation, while 20,000 others have lost their licences to teach.

On 19 July, the European University Association (EUA), in Brussels, issued a statement condemning the news of the university deans' forced resignations. "EUA calls 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," said its president, Rolf Tarrach.

This article is reproduced with permission and was first published on July 19, 2016.