INFORMATION ON THE NATIONAL HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEM IN TURKEY
The Basic Structure of the Turkish National Education System consists of four main stages as pre-school education, primary education, secondary education and higher education.
Pre-school education consists of non-compulsory programmes whereas primary education is a compulsory 8 year programme for all children beginning from the age of 6. The secondary education system includes “General High Schools” and “Vocational and Technical High Schools”.
Higher Education is defined as all post-secondary programmes with a duration of at least two years. The system consists of universities (state and non-profit foundation) and other types of higher education institutions (police and military academies and foundation vocational schools). Each university consists of faculties and schools offering First Cycle (Bachelor’s level) programmes (240 ECTS), two year vocational higher schools offering Short Cycle (Associate’s level) programmes (120 ECTS) of a strictly vocational nature and also graduate schools administering graduate programmes.
The Higher Education Law No. 2547 is the main law, which governs the higher education in Turkey. All universities (both state and non-profit foundation) are subject to the same law and regulations/rules. All state and non-profit foundation universities are founded by Law. The Higher Education System is regulated by the Council of Higher Education (Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu-YÖK) established in 1981, the Council regulates the activities of higher education institutions with respect to research, governing, planning and organization.
Admission to higher education is based on a nation-wide Student Selection Examination (ÖSS). The examination is held once a year and is administered by the Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM). Candidates gain access to institutions of higher education based on their composite scores consisting of the scores on the selection examination and their high school grade point averages.
Graduate level of study consists of the Second Cycle (Master’s Degree) and the Third Cycle (PhD/Doctorate Degree) programmes. There are two types of Master’s programmes: with or without a thesis. The Master’s programmes with a thesis have 120 ECTS and consist of a minimum of seven courses, with a minimum of 21 national credits*, one seminar course, and a thesis. The seminar course and thesis are non-credit and graded on a pass/fail basis. The duration of the Master’s programmes with a thesis is four semesters. Non-thesis Master’s programmes have 90 ECTS and consist of a minimum of 10 courses with a minimum of 30 national credits and a non-credit semester project. The semester project is graded on a pass/fail basis. Duration of the non-thesis Master’s programmes is three semesters. PhD programmes have 240 ECTS and duration of eight semesters which consists of completion of a minimum of seven courses, with a minimum of 21 national credits, passing a qualifying examination, preparing and defending a doctoral dissertation. Specialization in Medicine accepted as equivalent to third cycle programmes are carried out within the faculties of medicine, university hospitals and the training hospitals owned by the Ministry of Health.
Since 2003, a change in the 1996 Regulations on Graduate Education allows Bachelor’s degree holders to PhD programmes if their performance at the Bachelor’s degree level is exceptionally high and their application is approved. For these students, the theoretical part of the PhD programmes consists of a minimum of 14 courses, with a minimum of 42 national credits.
* The national credit system is based on contact hours (i.e. theoretical or practical hours per week). 1.0 credit stands for each hour of lecture a week and 0.5 credit stands for each hour of laboratory or practical a week.