Government-imposed rector of top Turkish university allegedly plagiarised academic work

The new rector of Boğaziçi University is alleged to have plagiarised parts of his Doctoral dissertation and other academic papers.

A number of Twitter commentators on Turkish affairs noted that samples of Melih Bulu’s writing in English did not display a particularly high level of competence in the language.

Others then began to look at samples of his academic work to see whether someone with such a poor grasp of English should was qualified to be the rector of a university which teaches in English. What they found suggested that Bulu had lifted entire paragraphs of other academic papers word for word, and copied them into his own work.

Twitter user Ankarali Jan then looked at the first 33 pages of Bulu’s Doctoral thesis, and came to the conclusion that “most of the English-language text in this doctoral thesis is plagiarised directly from other authors in such a way that suggests Bulu was merely citing their ideas rather than copying their words.”

The allegations reached Bulu himself, who responded that they were “lies”. Some speculated that Bulu had had his thesis written by someone else who had plagiarised it from other sources. It is quite common for students to cheat on exams in Turkey by paying someone else to do the work for them. In one recent case, dozens of students complained after a website took their money and did not provide them with anything in return.

“Our honest children were deceived by a firm that write academic dissertations for money, and they also seek their rights as honest citizens by writing complaints to the - "Igotcomplaint" site”

A recent investigation by Inside Turkey found at least 520 essay writing companies operating in Turkey, and “In 2017, a study of 470 master’s dissertations and 130 PhD theses by Boğaziçi University’s Centre for Educational Policy Studies revealed that around a third of them were heavily plagiarised.”

This would not be the first case in which a senior government official would have been found to have cheated on his university thesis. In 2018 emails released by Wikileaks suggested that President Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak had had his thesis written for him.

On Sunday, Melih Bulu made his first statement to faculty at Boğaziçi University. Faculty member Lucas Thorpe pointed out that not all staff at the university are Turkish and rectors usually issued statements in both English and Turkish.

However, faculty members protested the appointment of Bulu in an open letter which was being circulated over the weekend. The unnamed faculty members stated that Bulu’s appointment “clearly violates academic freedom and scientific autonomy, as well as the democratic values of our university”.