8 Best Universities in Istanbul


Historical gate of Istanbul University

Historical entrance of Istanbul University’s Laleli Campus – by Awoisoak Kaoslowa – Wikimedia Commons

The concept of higher education is kind of new in Turkey when compared to European countries. For centuries, only aristocrats who had a connection with the Ottoman Palace got the education that we can name as “university education”. In the 18th century, military schools were established, and army officers were begun to be educated with Western standards. However, the first higher education institutions were not established until the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. Even these first education institutions were far away from the standards of Western universities.

Universities with a universal concept were established in Turkey with the declaration of university reforms in 1933. With these fundamental reforms, many Turkish academicians were removed from their positions, European academicians, who mostly had Hebrew origin and were running away from the oppression of Nazis in Germany, were appointed to critical positions and a modernized curriculum was applied. These reforms mark the beginning of genuine university education in Turkey.

As for 2020, there are 203 universities in Turkey while Istanbul alone hosts 10 state universities and 40 foundation universities. As the biggest city of Turkey, Istanbul has the oldest, biggest and most successful universities in this country. In our list of “The Best Universities in Turkey”, we will examine some of these higher education institutions that lead academic life in Turkey.


1) Boğaziçi University: A college of excellence

Boğaziçi University

Boğaziçi University’s Anderson Hall – by Ozker – Wikimedia Commons

For decades, Boğaziçi University has been accepted as one of the best three universities in Turkey, together with Middle East Technical University in Ankara and Bilkent University in Ankara. Each year, Boğaziçi accepts students who achieve to get the highest points in university accession exams. Therefore, it is the main target of the most successful students in Turkey.

Boğaziçi University was founded in 1863 under the name of “Robert College” by an American educator named Dr Cyrus Hamlin and an American merchant named Christopher Rheinlander Robert. As Robert College functioned as a high school for more than a century, it was converted into Boğaziçi University in 1971.

Currently Boğaziçi University has 4 faculties; “Faculty of Engineering”, “Faculty of Education”, “Faculty of Science and Letters” and “Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences”. It also hosts postgraduate institutions on “Biomedical Engineering”, “Environmental Sciences”, “Principles of Atatürk and Revolution History”, “Science and Technology”, “Social Sciences” and “Earthquake Researches”.

According to US News and World Report’s evaluation, Boğaziçi University is the best university in Turkey, while it is at the 186th place globally.


2) Istanbul Technical University: Institution of innovations

Entrance of Istanbul Technical University’s Faculty of Architecture building

Istanbul Technical University’s Faculty of Architecture building – by Tahaerdemozturk – Wikimedia Commons

Istanbul Technical University (ITÜ) is the only technical school in our list of “The Best Universities in Istanbul”.

ITÜ’s fundamentals were laid as a military school with the name of “Naval Engineering School” in 1773. It was transformed into a modern university in 1944 with the foundation of faculties of “Architecture”, “Mechanical Engineering”, “Electrical Engineering” and “Construction Engineering”. In the 1990s and 2000s; “Faculty of Computer and Informatics”, “Faculty of Maritime”, “Faculty of Science and Letters”, “Faculty of Business Administration”, “Faculty of Mining”, “Faculty of Textile Technologies” and “Faculty of Space Technologies” were established.

Aside from these faculties, ITÜ also hosts 360 research and development laboratories and 13 research centers. Turkey’s first microelectronic laboratory, first supercomputer, first communication satellite and first hydrogen-powered boat were built at this university.

According to US News and World Report’s evaluation, ITÜ is the third best university in Turkey, while it is at the 424th place globally.


3) Istanbul University: Oldest and biggest university in Turkey

Istanbul University’s main building

Istanbul University, the biggest higher education institution in Turkey – by Gryffindor – Wikimedia Commons

Now let’s see a massive university that has a rightful place in our list of “The Best Universities in Istanbul”.

Istanbul University is known as the oldest, biggest and most populated university in Turkey. Its fundamentals were laid by Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in the 15th century under the name of “Sahn-ı Seman”. Until the establishment of the Republic, this school had been named as “Darulfunun Osmani”. With the declaration of university reforms in 1933, Istanbul University was founded as the first university of the young Republic of Turkey.

As soon as Istanbul University was established, foreign academicians from Europe were invited to this university. Especially academicians, who were the target of political oppression in Germany, Austria and Hungary, came to Istanbul and began to teach at Istanbul University. These people also guided Turkish authorities in establishing a modern education system.

As for today, Istanbul University has 15 faculties, 12 postgraduate institutions, 1 conservatory and 11 research centers. It is built on 9 big campuses in both European and Asian sides of the city. These campuses host more than 73.000 students and almost 10.000 academic/administrative personnel.

According to US News and World Report’s evaluation, Istanbul University is the 8th best university in Turkey, while it is at the 706th place in the world. On the other hand, Middle East Technical University’s University Ranking by Academic Performance list puts Istanbul University at the 2nd place in Turkey and at the 582nd place in the world.


4) Sabancı University: College with a unique education system

Sabancı University is one of the three foundation universities in our list of “The Best Universities in Istanbul” which are run by private enterprises.

Sabancı University was founded in 1999 by Sabancı Family, which is one of the wealthiest families in Turkey. This university is run with an interdisciplinary system, unlike other universities in Turkey. At Sabancı, students choose the department they will attend at the end of their second year. Until this time, students take courses from various areas and major on a definite field in their third year.

Sabancı University has three faculties named “Arts and Social Sciences”, “Engineering and Natural Sciences” and “Administrative Sciences”. It also involves three postgraduate institutions; “Institute of Science and Technology”, “Institute of Social Sciences” and “Institute of Administrative Sciences”. Furthermore, Sabancı University hosts three unique research centers named “Nano Technology Research Center”, “Istanbul Politics Center” and “International Energy and Climate Center”.

According to US News and World Report’s evaluation, Sabancı University is the 13th best university in Turkey, while it is at the 850th place in the world.


5) Koç University: School with distinguished staff and students

Campus view of Koç University

Campus view of Koç University – by Alikimi4 – Wikimedia Commons

Just like Sabancı University, Koç University is a foundation university established by Koç Family, which is another wealthy family of Turkey. This university was founded in 1993 and since that time providing higher education at 7 faculties, 4 postgraduate institutions, 21 research centers and 72 laboratories. Koç University is operating in one big campus built close to the Bosporus with more than 6.200 students and 400 academicians.

Koç University is seen as one of the most respected universities in Turkey. It accepts the most successful students to its scholarship vacancies. In 2019, Koç University’s “Computer Engineering”, “Electronic Engineering”, “Mechanical Engineering” and “Industrial Engineering” programs had the highest base points in Turkey, while “Medicine” and “Law” scholarship programs had the second-highest base points.

According to US News and World Report’s evaluation, Koç University is the 9th best university in Turkey, while it is at the 747th place in the world.


6) Galatasaray University: From high school to university

Galatasaray University has a unique place in our list of “The Best Universities in Istanbul”. Galatasaray University was founded in 1994 with a special agreement between the Turkish government and the French government. It is the only university in Turkey established with an international agreement and the only higher education institution which uses French as education language.

Galatasaray University also has a unique student selection process in Turkey. While all other universities are obliged to accept students only with a central college accession exam, Galatasaray University accepts 50% of its students with this central exam and 50% of its students with a private exam that only graduates of French-teaching high schools can take. Students graduated from French-teaching schools like Notre Dame de Sion, Saint Benoit, Saint Michel and Galatasaray High School, are recruited with a special selection process that their French language competencies are tested.

Galatasaray University has a two years long preparation school for those who do not speak French since all the courses are taught in this language. Due to its high education standards and the low number of vacancies, only the most successful students can achieve to enter this school. Galatasaray University recruits only 480 students each year.


7) Marmara University: A combination of positive and social sciences

Haydarpaşa Campus of Marmara University

Haydarpaşa Campus of Marmara University – by H.birdmanattorny – Wikimedia Commons

The fundamentals of Marmara University were laid in 1887 with the establishment of “Hamidiye Commerce School”. In 1959, this school was transformed into a higher education institution called “Istanbul Economics and Commercial Sciences University”. This school was later named as “Marmara University” in 1982.

Marmara University currently has 17 faculties, 12 postgraduate institutions, 4 vocational schools and 27 research centers. It is operating in 7 big campuses with 3.273 academicians and almost 70.000 students.

According to US News and World Report’s evaluation, Marmara University is the 15th best university in Turkey, while it is at the 875th place in the world.


8) Bilgi University: Gateway to Europe

Campus view of Bilgi University

Bilgi University – by Mertozuak – Wikimedia Commons

Another private enterprise in our list of “The Best Universities in Istanbul” is Bilgi University. Bilgi University was established in 1996 as a foundation university by Bilgi Education and Culture Foundation. Since its establishment, Bilgi University made cooperation with lots of European universities, NGOs, academic institutions and political groups. As a part of this cooperation, it had been one of the universities in the organization of “Laureate International Education Group” between 1996 and 2019.

Currently Bilgi University is providing education in 7 faculties, 3 postgraduate institutions, 3 vocational schools and 20 research centers. It is operating in 4 campuses with approximately 20.000 students and 1.500 academicians.

Bilgi is known for its modern and western-oriented curriculum which is highly influenced by academicians and advisors coming from European universities.