Higher Education in Turkey

Before a nationwide exam was introduced, each university in Turkey selected its students according to its criteria.

But nowadays, to enroll at higher education institutions, Turkish students need to take a 3-session exam called YKS. All applicants are required to take the Basic Proficiency Test (TYT - Temel Yeterlilik Testi), but the other two are optional, depending on what they intend to study.

The 2nd session is called the Field Qualification Test (AYT - Alan Yeterlilik Testi), which focuses on the following pairings: Turkish language-social sciences (I), social sciences (II), mathematics, and sciences.

The third session is the Foreign Language Test (YDT – Yabancı Dil Testi), most often in English but can also be taken in German, French, Arabic, and Russian.

After getting the necessary scores, students can choose (tercih) and apply to various programs.

The higher education system in Turkey consists of three steps: bachelor, master, and doctorate degrees. Pursuing an associate degree is also possible, which is offered in vocational and technical domains. Ön lisans is a 2-year associate degree.

Lisans is your typical bachelors or undergraduate degree. Most take 4 years to complete, except for fields such as veterinary sciences and law, which take 5 years, and medicine which takes 6 years.

A master’s degree is called yüksek lisans in Turkey. Suppose you are in a program that requires a dissertation to graduate. In that case, it will take a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 3 years to complete if you choose a schedule without a dissertation (instead, you will present a graduation project); it will often take a year and a half.

The next step is to pursue a doctorate/Ph.D. called doktora. It lasts an average of 3 to 5 years.

Types of Universities in Turkey

There are 2 types of universities in Turkey.

First, you have your "devlet" universities which are public/state institutions. Most students go to these universities as they do not have tuition fees.

The second type is "özel" or "vakıf" universities, which are private, non-profit institutions established by wealthy and philanthropic businesspeople or foundations. The universities can be quite costly, but many students get scholarships to cover tuition and living costs.

Top Universities in Turkey

The Best Public Universities

  • Boğaziçi University
  • Istanbul University
  • Hacettepe University
  • Istanbul Technical University (İTÜ)
  • Middle East Technical University (METU – ODTÜ in Turkish)
  • Yıldız Technical University (YTÜ)
  • 9 Eylül University
  • Ege University
  • Ankara University
  • Akdeniz University

The Best Private Universities

  • Koç University
  • Bilkent University
  • Sabancı University
  • Bahçeşehir University
  • Yeditepe University
  • Bilgi University
  • İzmir University of Economics
  • TOBB University of Economics and Technology
  • Özyeğin University

Cost of Studying in Turkey

How much you pay for your tuition will depend on whether it is a private or public university.

A bachelor's degree in English may be as little as $450 for each academic year, while one in Turkish will easily be less than half. On the other end of the spectrum, some private universities may charge over $23,000 for degrees in fields like medicine for each year studied. Master's programs can cost an average of $700 per academic year. The best way to gauge prices will be to visit the website of the university you are planning to attend.

However, many universities in Turkey provide scholarships or offer financial aid for international students. Scholarships can be based on merit/academic success or needs/background. Some may also pay monthly stipends for the brightest students. Even if you do not get a full scholarship, some private universities may offer discounts.

You also need to factor in living costs, which will vary according to the city you live in.

Qualifications Awarded in Turkey

In Turkey, you can receive the following qualifications from higher education institutions:

  • Doctoral degree
  • Master's degree
  • Bachelor's degree with high honors (yüksek onur derecesi)
  • Bachelor's degree with honors (onur derecesi)
  • Non-honors bachelor's degree

You get a specialist certificate (uzmanlık belgesi) after completing a 2-year master's program. For example, you can receive a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Sciences (MSc) as your specialization.

Study Exchange Programs and Scholarships in Turkey

The most known program is Türkiye Scholarships, a government-initiated scheme for international students to study for free at Turkish universities. YÖK (the Turkish Council of Higher Education) also offers scholarships.

Turkey participates in the European Erasmus+ Exchange Program, allowing students to study a semester or a year in another country at a participating university. Academically successful students can also get monthly stipends that go toward living costs.

International students can also do 3-month Erasmus internships in Turkey.

On a smaller scale, the Mevlana Exchange Program also accepts students from all higher education institutions that have signed the program protocol.

Applying to a Turkish University

The process of applying to study at a Turkish university will depend on whether you have previously studied in Turkey and whether you will be applying through the national university entrance exam. For which you need to know Turkish and the high school curriculum) or via YÖS (Yabancı Öğrenci Sınavı – Foreign Students' Exam, which is math- and Turkish-based). You can also apply through the exchange program or, in some cases, independently.

To evidence your academic suitability for the program, you may be asked to provide the following:

  • Photocopy of your exam results, academic certificates, or diplomas
  • Each school will have different requirements, so it is best to inquire about which exams are accepted and what scores you need to pass.
  • Reference letters
  • Application fee

Qualifications Needed to Study in Turkey.

Completing high school or the equivalent is a prerequisite to apply to study at a university in Turkey. For that, the best document is your diploma, which must be translated and notarized.

If the education system is very different from Turkey's, you may be asked to provide a detailed transcript.

Apart from these, you will also need to evidence your language proficiency.

Language Skills for Admission to a Turkish University

Unless your program is 100% taught in English, Turkish universities may require you to have a certain level of Turkish to be accepted onto a schedule.

If you want to study law or nursing, you will have to prove a high level of Turkish proficiency.

However, most universities will only ask for English or foreign language proficiency certificates. IELTS or TOEFL is the most commonly accepted one, though some schools may require you to take their prep exams. If you fail to pass these exams, the university may offer you the option of enrolling in an intensive preparatory program to get your language skills up to par.

Student Accommodation in Turkey

Some private universities have their dormitories within their campus, which can be costly depending on the services/rooms offered. There are also dorms run by the state (devlet yurdu), for which applications are accepted through e-devlet.

If the university does not have its dorm, there are also other privately run dorms.

If you do not want to stay in student dormitories, you can use houseshare with fellow students or rent your place.

Being an International Student in Turkey

The best place to learn more about the university, living in the city, best areas to rent and more, is the university's Facebook group.

The following official sites are also great resources:

Check out this article if you have any questions about student visas, study permits, and working while studying in Turkey.