Study in Turkey
The number of international students choosing to study in Turkey has more than doubled since 2006, signalling the country’s growing importance as a higher education destination. In the 2015-16 academic year, there were around 48,000 foreign students in Turkey.
Motivations for study in Turkey include the opportunity to gain a relatively inexpensive and good quality education, with opportunities for scholarships that also pay a monthly allowance, covering accommodation and tuition fees, health insurance and travel expenses.
Turkey is already a firmly established tourist destination, with 42 million tourists visiting from all over the world in 2014. And according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, it is the sixth most popular holiday destination. The Turkish government has ambitions of extending this popularity even further into the international student market, having set a target of having 100,000 international students in the country by 2018.
If you’d like to study in Turkey, click on the tabs below to find out about top universities in Turkey, popular cities for students, how much you’ll need to budget, and how to get a student visa.
- Capital is Ankara, but largest city is Istanbul
- Official language is Turkish; also spoken are Kurdish, Arabic, Armenian and Greek
- Main religion is Islam
- Population is around 78 million
- Currency is the Turkish lira
- International dialling code is +90 and internet domain is .tr
- Borders with eight countries: Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Azerbaijani exclave Nakhchivan
- About 5% of landmass on the European continent, 95% in Asia
- Major industrial sectors include petrol, steel, mining, vehicle manufacture, textiles and food production
- Traditional Turkish cuisine is probably best known for kebab (meat cooked on a skewer), meze (assorted small dishes), and baklava (very sweet filo pastry-based dessert)
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Universities in Turkey
There are nearly 200 universities in Turkey, most of which are run by the state. Most of these institutions are relatively young; as recently as 1970, there were only eight state institutions, and the first private university (Bilkent University), was not established until 1984. Among the youngest universities in Turkey is Antalya International University (AIU), which welcomed its first students in the 2012/13 academic year, and aims to recruit more than half of its students from outside Turkey.
Both public and private universities in Turkey conform to the Bologna Agreement, which standardizes degree programs across Europe, and many are participants in the Erasmus+ program, which supports international student exchanges.
Top universities in Turkey
Ten Turkish universities are featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2015/16, while 16 Turkish universities are featured in the QS University Rankings: EECA, a ranking of the leading universities in Emerging Europe and Central Asia. The majority of these top universities in Turkey are located in either Ankara or Istanbul, Turkey’s two largest cities. In Ankara, you’ll find Bilkent University, Middle East Technical University and Hacettepe University, while Istanbul boasts Sabanci University, Istanbul University, Koç University, Bogaziçi Üniversitesi and Istanbul Technical University.
Based in Turkish capital Ankara, Middle East Technical University (METU) is ranked joint 11th in the EECA rankings, alongside fellow Turkish university Bilkent. It has about 31,000 students, many of whom are exchange students attending for either a semester or a year. Because demand is so high, METU only accepts students from the top 1.5% of its 1.5 million yearly applicants. As at Bilkent University, the medium of instruction is English.
Also joint 11th in the EECA rankings, Bilkent University’s name is an acronym of “bilim kenti”, which is Turkish for "city of learning and science”. Bilkent University was Turkey’s first private non-profit institution, founded in 1984, and boasts the most extensive academic library in the country.
Sabanci University is Istanbul’s highest ranked university and the third highest ranked in Turkey in the EECA rankings this year, in 14th place. It is another young university, having commenced teaching in the autumn of 1999, and currently teaches around 4,000 students. Some 42% of its undergraduates receive scholarships.
Founded in Istanbul in 1993, Koç University was named after its founder, the entrepreneur and philanthropist Vehbi Koç. Koç University offers 22 undergraduate, 32 graduate and 18 PhD programs, and currently teaches around 5,500 students. The university describes its mission as “to cultivate Turkey’s most competent graduates, well-rounded adults who are internationally qualified; who can think creatively, independently and objectively; and who are confident leaders.”
Also in Istanbul, Bogaziçi Üniversitesi was founded in 1863 and was the first American university to be established outside the US. It’s situated close to the Bosphorus strait and the historic castle of Rumelihisar, which flanks the eastern boundary of the university’s South Campus.
Living in Turkey
As a student living in Turkey – especially if you are based in one of the larger cities – you certainly won’t find yourself short of places to explore and things to do. Music lovers will find plenty of variety, from folk to techno, classical to pop, and hip hop to jazz – plus everything in between. The cities are full of lively venues, and Turkey hosts a number of international music festivals each year. Meanwhile film fans may already be aware of the country’s growing domestic film industry, and will find themselves in good company; cinema-going is a popular activity in Turkey, and the latest Hollywood blockbusters are widely screened.
In terms of daily life, you may find yourself becoming adept at spotting a good quality doner kebab, haggling over prices at the souk, preparing (or at least appreciating) a real Turkish coffee, and perhaps even taking on the locals at tavla, or backgammon, which is popularly played in cafes and parks.
Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city and has a history going back thousands of years, but is today flourishing as a global city with a constantly growing skyline. Home to over 14 million people, Istanbul welcomed approximately 12.5 million tourists in 2015, five years after it was named a European Capital of Culture, making the city the world's fourth-most-popular tourist destination. The cultural heritage of the city is a big appeal for tourists, and also the clubs, pubs and Turkish taverns.
Sabanci University and Koç University are two of Istanbul’s highest ranked universities at 14th and 15th place in the EECA rankings respectively. Bogaziçi Üniversitesi and Istanbul University are joint 17th, while Istanbul Technical University also ranks highly at 30th place.
Ankara is Turkey’s capital and second largest city. A busy commercial and political center, it has a large student population, as well as a significant community of international diplomats. Its most popular visitor attractions include Ankara Castle, the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, and Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey. Ankara is also a popular destination for bird-watching.
The two highest ranked universities in both Ankara and Turkey are Middle East Technical University (METU) and Bilkent University, both ranked joint 11th in the EECA rankings. Another highly ranked university in Ankara is Hacettepe University, which is 34th in the EECA rankings. Other universities in Ankara include Gazi University, ranked joint 83rd, the Turkish Military Academy, and Baskent University.
The third largest city in Turkey, İzmir is known as the ‘Pearl of the Aegean’ for its picturesque location overlooking the Aegean Sea. İzmir has a liberal, laid-back feel, although the Kemeraltı market, beaches and many events and exhibitions the city hosts mean you’re unlikely to be bored here. It has a vast and multicultural history of around 4000 years, and is home to Ege University, ranked 73rd in the EECA rankings, and Dokuz Eylül University, which is 91st. It is also home to several young universities - Yasar University, founded in 2001 and an English-medium university, the University of İzmir, founded in 2007, and Katip Çelebi University and Şifa University, both founded in 2010.
Another student city is Adana, the fifth most populous city in Turkey and home to Cukurova University, ranked 111-120 in the EECA rankings. Apart from its ranking, the university’s location in southern Turkey makes it highly attractive. On the east coast of the Seyhan Dam Reservoir Lake, its facilities include dining halls amongst the pine trees. Adana is another very old city which dates back to 6000 B.C, so there is plenty of culture to enjoy here.
Other top student cities in Turkey
Other top universities in Turkey include Anadolu University in Eskişehir, one of Turkey’s more affordable big cities, whose name literally means ‘old city’ in Turkish. Courses are taught in Turkish, English, French and German. Another is Süleyman Demirel University, Isparta, which is one of Turkey’s largest universities in terms of student numbers, and is also part of the Erasmus Program for exchange students.
Finally, Akdeniz University in Antalya is actively encouraging international student participation, through programs such as the Mevlana Exchange Program, the Bologna Process and the International Association for the Exchange of the Students for Technical Experience.
In most of these locations, many local people can speak English, making it relatively easy for international students to settle in, even without fluency in Turkish. All in all, studying and living in Turkey promises to provide an experience unlike any other – as you’ll discover if you choose this truly ‘Eurasian’ destination for your university years.
Tuition fees in Turkey
Tuition fees for international students are fairly affordable and vary depending on the program. Public universities are much cheaper than private institutions in Turkey, as a postgraduate degree at a public university could cost you as little as US$300-800 for a postgraduate qualification. Private universities set their own fees and charge up to $20,000.
At public universities, tuition fees are generally more expensive for study programs in English, ranging from $600-1500 per year, while the same courses in Turkish are around $240-750.
Cost of living
The cost of living is relatively low compared to other study destinations in Europe, with $400 to $500 estimated to be needed per month to cover living costs including accommodation, although this will depend on your lifestyle and spending habits. You will also need around $100 to $150 per semester to cover the costs of course books and administrative fees.
Turkish student visa requirements
In order to study in Turkey, you'll first need to be accepted onto a course at a Turkish university, and then apply for a student visa at your nearest Turkish consulate. In order to be granted a Turkish student visa, you will need:
- A copy of your letter of acceptance from a Turkish university
- A completed Turkish student visa application form (obtained from the consulate)
- A valid passport, with an expiry date beyond the end of your planned stay in Turkey
- A processing fee, which varies depending on your nationality
- Passport-sized photographs of yourself
It generally takes around eight weeks from the time you submit your application until you receive your visa. After arriving in Turkey, you should also apply for a residence permit, within one month of arrival. This can be done at the nearest police headquarters, and requires you to show proof that you are enrolled at a Turkish university, your passport and Turkish student visa, photographs and a fee.
International students in Turkey are permitted to work for up to 24 hours per week.