History of plagiarism casts shadow on Turkey’s new central bank governor

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan alarmed finance experts on Saturday by summarily dismissing Central Bank of Turkey Government Murat Çetinkaya. There was cause for further alarm over the weekend, after it emerged that his successor, Murat Uysal, had plagiarised his master’s thesis.

Erdoğan’s decision marked the first time a central bank governor had been dismissed in the country since the post-coup period of 1980. The Turkish president reportedly told lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that Çetinkaya had resisted repeated instructions to lower interest rates, which, according to Erdoğan’s unorthodox understanding of economics, should lower inflation.

The dissertation in question by Uysal, promoted from vice governorship at the central bank after Çetinkaya’s dismissal, titled “Inflation Targetting: World and Turkish Experiences” was submitted for his master’s degree at Marmara University in 2001.

Turkish social media users quickly pointed out that large parts of the thesis were lifted word for word from other articles, in some cases without any acknowledgement of the author.

The new central bank governor copied large sections from an article by U.S. economist Frederic Mishkin, a research study for the Turkish central bank written by Ferya Kadıoğlu, Nilüfer Özdemir and Gökhan Yılmaz, and an article by Turkish economic Melike Altınkemer, Twitter user Can Okar showed.

Another section was plagiarised from an article written in 1998 by Almila Karasoy, Mesut Saygılı and Cihan Yalçın, a tweet by Turkish economist F. Kemal Kızılca showed.

Studies on Turkish academia has found plagiarism to be commonplace: research from Istanbul’s prestigious Boğaziçi University in 2016 found that 34 percent of master’s and doctoral theses contained “heavy plagiarism”.

In February, German state-run Deutsche Welle Türkçe reported that thesis-writing had grown to a sector worth $28 million in Turkey. 

One of the highest profile allegations of academic cheating in Turkey came in 2016, when WikiLeaks released over 57,000 emails said to belong to Erdoğan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, then energy minister.

The emails included several that were reportedly from Erişah Arıcan, a professor at Marmara University, where Albayrak received his doctoral thesis. In the emails, Arıcan informs Albayrak she has nearly finished writing his doctoral thesis and asks for his input to complete it.

Arıcan was later appointed as the Chairperson of the Board at the Istanbul Stock Exchange. Albayrak was appointed as the Treasury and Finance Minister last year, and is said to be close to Uysal, another alumni of Marmara University whose thesis was also supervised by Arıcan.