Turkish universities are Republican institutions, following Atatürk’s principles. Universities, faculties, institutes, higher education schools, conservatories, vocational higher education schools, police and military academies and colleges, and application-research centers are considered as Higher Education institutions.
Universities, faculties and institutes of four-year higher education schools are founded by Law, while the two-year vocational schools, departments and divisions are established by the Council of Higher Education (YÖK). Universities are under the supervision of this Council and their programmes must be regularly accredited. The Council of Higher Education is a fully autonomous national board of trustees without any political or government affiliation. Universities have their rectors, deans, senate, and administrative boards, as well as student councils. In the universities, the instruction is generally in Turkish. Some universities use English, French and German as the language of instruction with one preparatory year if necessary.
After the highschool, the graduates enter an one-stage examination (ÖSS – Student Selection Examination) in order to be admitted to Higher Education institutions. This nation-wide centralized examination is administrated by the Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM) every year, which determines candidates for the enrollment of each university and faculty after evaluating the grades of related subjects, their high school average results and their preferences according to the student capacity of each faculty. Those with good grades are qualified for the four-year undergraduate programmes and at the end they can get a Bachelor’s Degree (BA), those who have grades at the limit can be admitted to the two-year higher education programmes and at the end they can get an Associate’s Degree (AA). Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine courses last for five years and Medicine for six years.
After a four-year faculty, one can go further for his/her Master’s Degree which lasts for two years with thesis and non-thesis options. Access to doctoral programs requires a master’s degree and have a duration of minimum four years with a doctoral thesis at the end. The graduates of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Dentistry can directly apply to PhD/Doctorate programmes.
The purpose of higher education is to raise the students in line with their interests and skills, in conformance to the science policy of the country and in consideration of qualified manpower needs of society at several levels, to do researches in scientific areas, to arrange for all kinds of publications that show the research and examination results and facilitate advancement of science and technology, to finalize the researches and examinations demanded by the government and to make comments, to make written or oral public announcements explaining the scientific data that shall increase the general level of Turkish society and enlighten the public, and to give non-formal education.
According to the Law, higher education institutions are responsible for the training of their own academic staff. Meanwhile, Primary and Secondary school teachers are trained in universities for 4 years and they get a BA degree at the end.
The major source of income of state universities is the funds allocated through the annual State budget, this is equivalent of about 60% of the total university income. In addition to this, a university can generate its own income from the services provided by that university, such as patient care in university hospitals. Student contributions to state universities form only 4% of the total university budget. Meanwhile, the student fees in private foundation (Vakif) universities are much higher.
At present, enrolment in the private universities accounts for only 5% of the total. Clearly, state universities are by far carrying the major portion of the load of higher education in Turkey.