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Higher Education System in Turkey

Higher Education System in Turkey

General Structure

In 1981, Turkey’s higher education system in accordance with the new Higher Education Act 2547, was restructured in a comprehensive manner. Thus, all higher education institutions were connected to the Higher Education Council (YÖK) and the system was made centralized. After this restructuring, all higher education institutions were designed as universities. Higher education has become widespread throughout the country, application to higher education has been centralized and a central university examination and placement system has begun to be implemented. Besides the state universities, the first profit in 1986, Turkey began to offer training to non-profit private university students.

Since 2012 compulsory education in Turkey lasts 12 years and is divided into three stages (primary, secondary and high school).

Pre-School Education: It is the education that includes children between the ages of 3 and 5 who have not reached the age of compulsory primary education; is optional.

Primary education : Refers to the education and training of children between the ages of 6 and 10. Primary education is compulsory for all citizens. It is free in public schools and lasts four years (first, second, third and fourth grades).

Secondary education: Includes education and training of children aged 10 to 14. Primary secondary education is compulsory for all citizens. It is free in public schools and lasts four years (fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades). Before the completion of basic secondary education, students are informed about both general high schools and vocational high schools and technical high schools to be acquired at the end of secondary education.

High school : includes general high schools providing four-year education or vocational and / or technical high schools for children aged 14-17 (ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth grades). High school education is compulsory for all citizens and is free in public schools.

Higher Education : After graduating from high school, students can move on to higher education, which is compatible with the three-stage Bologna system.

Types of Higher Education Institutions and Academic Units

Faculty: It is the unit where higher education, scientific research and publications are made. Various departments and programs can be within the faculty. Students earn a bachelor’s degree at the end of an education program that lasts at least four years.

Institute: It is the unit where postgraduate education is given in universities, scientific research and publication is carried out. Master’s or doctoral degrees are offered in institutes.

Vocational School: A unit that focuses on education and training for a specific profession. It takes eight semesters.

Conservatory: It is a unit where artists are trained in music and performing arts. It takes eight semesters.

Post-Secondary Vocational School: It is a unit that aims to train qualified manpower for certain professions and at the end of four semesters of education, an associate degree is given.

Research and Application Center: It is the unit where education, practice and research are carried out in order to support education in higher education institutions, for the application needs of various fields and for the preparation and support activities of some professions.


Associate Degree: The degree given after the two-year education program is completed. Some distance education programs are also available. Associate degree programs may require on-the-job training for a while.

Undergraduate: It is awarded after the completion of a four-year, 240 ECTS course. The education period for Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy is five years and for Medicine six years. Qualifications earned in these four areas are considered equivalent to a master’s degree.

Master’s : It is a two-year program that offers either a Social Sciences (MA) or a Science (MS) degree. There are two types of Master’s Programs, with and without thesis. The master’s program with thesis is a two-year program, usually consisting of courses with a minimum of 120 ECTS credits followed by a thesis submission. Non-thesis programs are those that are completed in one or a half years and include the completion of at least 90 credits of courses and a term project.

Doctorate: It is a program that usually consists of eight semesters, where a PhD degree is awarded. Courses of 180-240 ECTS credits, proficiency exam, a thesis presentation, thesis oral defense. After successfully completing their courses and the qualifying exam, students must first present their thesis to a thesis committee and defend it orally.

Medical Specialization : Equivalent to doctoral programs and is conducted in medical schools, university hospitals, and research and teaching hospitals. For medical specialization, there is a competitive selection examination in various medical majors for graduates of medical schools. Expert candidates must present a thesis and defend it before a review committee. In addition, a certain level of foreign language knowledge is sought.

Proficiency in Art: It is a master’s program of at least six semesters in visual arts and performing arts branches and is equivalent to a doctorate. It requires the presentation of an original work of art or a superior, creative performance (in music and performing arts).

International Student Admissions

Turkey’s undergraduate international students who want to receive their secondary education, they must have completed the equivalent of a high school or institutions in Turkey. Then, they must directly apply to their preferred university and meet the acceptance criteria of the relevant university. There are also many various scholarship options available for international students.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees are applied differently at state universities and foundation universities. In public universities, tuition fees are determined by the President’s Decree, considering the type and duration of studies in different disciplines. On the other hand, in foundation universities, tuition fees are determined by the University’s Board of Trustees.

Students must pay the tuition fee for each semester before enrolling in certain courses at the beginning of the semester. Various scholarships are awarded to a certain percentage of accepted students in both public and foundation universities. These scholarships can be full or partial tuition fee scholarships, merit scholarships or support scholarships. Some of these scholarships can cover academic materials, accommodation, food and beverage expenses, and even pocket money.