A well-established tourist destination, Turkey is also emerging as a prime location for high-quality university education
It's not just the Mediterranean sun, fascinating ruins and world-renowned food that has drawn more than 50,000 international students to Turkey. Many can't resist the opportunity to study in a country of invaluable global links thanks to Turkey's positioning as a bridge between Europe and Asia.
Whether you have your sights set on the capital city of Ankara, Turkey's cultural and financial hub Istanbul or somewhere a little less high-profile, studying in Turkey will be an affordable yet eye-opening experience.
It's worth mentioning that the country is still experiencing political uncertainty and while most visits are trouble-free, it's important that you check the latest travel advice for Turkey.
Of the 183 higher education institutions, Turkey is home to 109 state-governed universities and 74 established non-profit private foundations.
A total of 11 Turkish institutions appear in the QS World Rankings 2018, with five in the top 500 - Bilkent, Koç, Sabanci, Middle East Technical and Bogaziçi.
This is an impressive standing, considering the Turkish higher education system is one of the world's youngest. As recently as 1970, there were just eight established institutions in Turkey, with highly-ranked Bilkent and Koç only formally recognised in 1984 and 1993 respectively.
As Turkey is classed as an emerging economy by the Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE), having only formed as a country in 1923, the Times Higher Education BRICS & Emerging Economies University Rankings provide a good indication of how the country is performing in the current climate. A total of 16 Turkish universities make an appearance, with 7 in the top 100 and both Koç (15th) and Sabanci (18th) making the top 20.
With a reputation as one of the leading universities in Turkey, Koç University offers more than 50 full-time Masters and Doctoral programmes taught in English.
Students enrolled at a UK university can take part in the EU's education and training programme Erasmus+.
Erasmus+ provides opportunities for current students to complete a part of their degree abroad. Opportunities last anywhere from three to 12 months and are open to any student enrolled at one of the 4,000+ institutions affiliated with the scheme.
A Turkish Bachelors degree will take on average four years to complete full time, with the exception of longer courses such as architecture and medicine which can take up to six. Courses are offered across a range of subjects, from economics and mathematics to fashion design.
A Masters in Turkey will take you up to two years to complete full time. The academic year is split across two semesters, running from October to January and February to July.
Turkish universities offer Masters courses both with and without the completion of a thesis as a requirement. If you opt in to a thesis course, you'll study a range of modules as well as writing and submitting a thesis in the second semester of your second year. If you enrol on a non-thesis course you'll take a wider selection of modules, with the option to study subjects outside your course discipline.
Doctorate courses commence in either the October or February terms, and can take anywhere from three to five years to complete depending on whether you study full or part time and the nature of the course.
Unlike its UK equivalent, a Turkish PhD is supervised by a committee rather than an individual.
Costs will depend on whether you're attending a state university or foundation - while a postgraduate qualification from a publically-funded university could cost you as little as £380 per year, foundations set their own benchmarks and can charge as much as £7,650 annually.
You may also be subject to higher fees if you enrol on a course given in English; this can add anywhere from £300 to £800 yearly onto your tuition fees.
Still, it's these favourably lower costs compared to the UK and US systems that makes studying in Turkey an enticing option.
This affordability stretches to the costs of living, too - the average international student needs just £300-£400 per month for living costs. This figure covers amenities such as accommodation, clothing and transport. You'll need roughly £100 per semester to cover textbooks and £840 for food and drink, depending on your lifestyle and preferences.
Funding to study in Turkey
There are a number of scholarships available to international students hoping to study in Turkey, tailored to specific institutions or schools of teaching. Benefits on these scholarships include tuition waivers, monthly allowances and health insurance.
You'll need to do your homework if you’re hoping to receive funding, however - most scholarships list entrance exam scores of at least 70%, some as high as 80%, as a requirement to be considered.
These scholarships include:
- TÜBITAK Graduate Scholarship Programme - for students looking to pursue a graduate degree in a scientific field at any Turkish university.
- IBN HALDUN Social Sciences Programme - for prospective MA Social Sciences students, to study at any Turkish university renowned for social sciences e.g. Istanbul Bilgi, Yasar and Koc.
- Türkiye Burslari Research Fellowship Programme - a monthly grant of 3000 Lira (£650) for PhD candidates or holders to support further research over a 12 month period.
How to apply
To study in Turkey you'll need to hold appropriate qualifications at the previous level - you won’t be able to study a Masters without already holding a Bachelors degree, for instance. You'll also need to pass the postgraduate entrance exam, the Academic Personnel and Graduate Education Exam (ALES), which is administered by the Student Selection and Placement Centre (ÖSYM).
ALES examinations are held twice yearly in March and November. The exam takes approximately three hours to complete, and is comprised of literacy and numeracy questions. See ÖSYM for a more detailed guide of what the ALES involves and how to apply.
Along with your passed ALES exam, as part of your application you'll need to provide:
- a completed international student application form
- your Bachelors or Masters certificate
- an updated CV with letters of recommendation
- proof of sufficient funds for the duration of your course
- photo ID
- the application fee.
The application process begins at home - visit university websites to see whether they operate an online application system or will require direct email correspondence.
If you're enrolling on an English-given course and English is your first language, you won't need to provide any proof of your English proficiency. However if English is your second language, this proof can be requested as:
- a letter of confirmation from your English co-ordinator or professor at your home university
- an internationally recognised language certificate, such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
- a passed English placement test, which you may be asked to take at your institution on arrival.
Even if you're studying an English course, this is great opportunity to pick up some Turkish - you'll find the country easier to navigate and may open yourself up to more career opportunities as a result. Many universities offer intensive language courses for international students.
Without arriving in Turkey with your student visa already authorised, you won't be able to register as a student or receive a residency permit.
The visa application process takes place at the Turkish consulate in your home country - for the UK, this is in London - where you'll attend an appointment once your online pre-application has been approved. At this appointment you'll need to present:
- a letter of acceptance from a Turkish university
- the completed Turkish student visa form
- proof of your ability to support yourself financially
- a passport valid for at least 60 days beyond the length of your stay
- the required visa fee
- proof of health insurance
- a passport photo.
Make sorting your student visa a priority, as it will take roughly eight weeks to reach you after your application has been submitted.
Comparison to UK qualifications
Turkish and UK qualifications are easily compared and translated. As well as the UK and 46 other countries, Turkey is a member of the Bologna Process - an agreement between European countries to ensure comparability in quality and standards of higher education qualifications.
Due to this agreement, the Turkish qualification framework follows a similar structure to UK degrees.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to work in Turkey.