Ilkay Salihoğlu was born in Karaagac (Pelatusa), Paphos in 1945. He completed his primary education at the local primary school, and his secondary education at Poli Hurriyet Ortaokulu and Lefkosa Turk Erkek Lisesi.
He completed his undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD degrees in the Department of Chemistry of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Middle East Technical University in Ankara. When METU opened a Marine Sciences programme, a newly-emerging field in which he was particularly interested, he made the move to a new academic career.
As a researcher and project manager, Professor Salihoğlu has taken part in various national and international maritime projects. He has published about 200 scientific articles in the field of Oceanography, 136 of these have been in international journals. His areas of expertise include a particular focus on Chemical Oceanography, Marine Pollution and the symbiotic relationships between the sea and the atmosphere.
Along with his academic and administrative responsibilities, Prof. Ilkay Salihoğlu has worked with a range of international institutions and organizations. This has included working as a Marine Sciences consultant for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; being the Turkish National Technical Co-ordinator for the Mediterranean Action Plan (MED-POL) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); being the Project Co-ordinator for the Science for Peace and Security Programme of NATO; and between 1997 and 2003, he was an executive member of the Inter-governmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (IOC of UNESCO). Professor Salihoğlu was also an executive member of the Strategic Educational and Research Centre of the Turkish Council of Higher Education.
Prof. Ilkay Salihoğlu has served on the Board of Trustees of Near East University, where he began working as an academician in 2003. Along with his academic responsibilities at Near East University, he has worked as the Director of the Institute of Basic and Applied Sciences, and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
He is the founding Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Kyrenia, and has been Rector of the University since 2013.
Ilkay Salihoğlu is married, and he has a son and three grandchildren.