The Higher Education System in Turkey

In recent years, a great turnout has been observed in studying in Turkey, especially Arab students from different countries, so Turkey has become the focus of attention of many students, especially those who want to complete their academic career. Here we review the most important points related to the university educational system in Turkey.

The Higher Education System in Turkey

The Higher Education System in Turkey:

The Higher Education System in Turkey is supervised by the Council of Higher Education (YÖK). The Council of Higher Education is an autonomous institution which is responsible for the planning, coordination and governance of Higher Education System in Turkey in accordance with the Turkish Constitution and the Higher Education Laws. Decide upon their own academic calendars; however, academic year generally starts in September and ends in June. There are winter and summer breaks. Summer school is also available at some universities.



Turkey has a U.S.-style three-cycle system, which includes a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, and Doctorate. In addition, the Turkish system also includes a two-year associate degree, which is mostly a non-university qualification in technical and vocational fields designed to prepare students for entry into the labor force.

Bachelor Degrees:

The standard Bachelor’s degree is conferred following four years of study, and typically requires the completion of a minimum of 128 Turkish credits (240 ECTS). Admission to universities is based on students’ high school grade average and the results from the centrally administered YGS-LYS examinations. Some universities may have additional entrance examinations.

Professional Degrees:

Professional degrees in Turkey are awarded upon completion of long, single-tier university programs entered directly after high school. Programs in engineering, dentistry, architecture, and veterinary medicine are five years in length (160 credits/300 ECTS). Medical programs are six years in length, including clinical internship. Professional degree titles include the Dis Hekimligi Diploması (dentistry diploma), Eczacilik Lisans Diploması (pharmacy diploma), Tip Doktorlugu Diploması (doctor of medicine diploma), and Veteriner Hekim Diploması (veterinary medicine diploma). The final credentials are considered master’s-level qualifications in Turkey, and may enable access to doctoral programs.

Specialization training in medicine lasts two to six years beyond the first professional degree, depending on the specialty, and concludes with the award of a specialist certificate (Uzmanlık Belgesi). Postgraduate specialist certificates are also awarded in other disciplines, such as pharmacy, dentistry and veterinary science.

Master’s Degrees:

Admission to master’s programs is usually based on the grade point average obtained in the bachelor’s program, and successful passage of entrance examinations. Some graduate schools may also conduct interviews. There are two types of master’s programs: those with a final thesis and those without. The programs with a final thesis take two years (60 Turkish credits, 120 ECTS); those without take one and a half years to complete (45 Turkish credits, 90 ECTS).

In addition to the master’s degree, Turkish universities also award a postgraduate credential called Bilim Uzmanligi Diploması (specialist diploma in science). This program is only offered in selected fields, is usually two years in length, and is often considered a master’s-level qualification.

Doctorate Degree:

A Doctorate Degree is usually the most advanced degree someone can get in an academic discipline. it is considered the last stage of postgraduate studies. It takes two years to study at the doctoral level in Turkey.



Admission to undergraduate programs at Turkish universities is based on students’ grade point averages from secondary school and their scores on the two-stage university entrance exams. Typically, university entry is reserved for students who graduate from the general academic secondary branch. Graduates of technical and vocational schools typically pursue further studies at technical institutes.

Students who obtain a Lise Diplomasi, Meslek Lise Diploması, or Teknik Lise Diploması are eligible to sit for a centralized, two-stage university entrance examination administered by the Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM) and supervised by the Turkish Council of Higher Education (YÖK).

Students first sit for the so-called “Transition to Higher Education Examination” (Yuksek Ögretime Gecis Sinavi – YGS), usually conducted in April or March. The YGS is a multiple-choice exam in a number of standard subjects including Turkish, mathematics, social sciences and science.

Students with sufficiently high scores are then allowed to take the Undergraduate Placement Examination (Lisans Yerlestirme Sinavi – LYS) in June, which is another standardized exam in a similar range of subjects.

Whereas, foreign students sit for the (YÖS) and (SAT) exams provided that they have completed high school studies and obtained its diploma.

Most public and private universities have something called (University Admission Differentiation Process), but some private universities adopt a personal registration policy where fees are high and this is done through the private offices contracting with those universities as their agents.


Students’ Attendance System:

Attendance is compulsory at Turkish universities for all university majors, including literary and theoretical majors, and a student who misses four or more lectures from the course is considered to have failed in that course.

Students’ attendance at Turkish universities is usually divided into two parts:

Morning Shift: This system is free for Turkish students only. As for foreign students, they must pay registration and study fees, except for Syrian students, who are exempt from tuition fees.

Evening Shift: This system is payable to all students, regardless of their nationality, whether they are Turkish or of other nationalities.


 Tuition Fees System:

It is considered a fairly good system because the tuition fees are paid each semester, while the tuition fees for public universities are about 250 dollars, which is a small amount compared to the tuition fees for private universities, as the tuition fees for private universities range between 8000 and 25000 dollars annually depending on the major and the university.


The Academic Year:

The academic year generally starts in September and ends in June. The academic year consists of two semesters, each of which includes an examination for the subjects of the same semester.

The success score is calculated as follows: the mid-term exam counts for 40% and the final exam counts for 60%. Some scientific disciplines include two mid-term exams per semester in addition to the semester exam. The courses at the Turkish University are usually divided into two parts, namely: Optional courses and Compulsory courses.


Examination System:

Turkish universities adopt the semester system, whereby the subjects of the first semester are applied in the first semester only, and if students hold subjects from the second semester of the previous year, they are not entitled to apply for them in the first semester of the following years, but rather they must be applied exclusively in the second semester.

Many universities adopt the American scale system, which includes six letters from (A) to (F) and four numbers from (1) to (4). Usually, the recognized success rate among Turkish universities is between 50%, 60% or 70% for success in the subject, according to what is determined by the university itself.


Turkish Language:

Those who want to study in Turkey must have a level (B2) at least in the Turkish language, otherwise the student will have to study a preparatory year in the Turkish language in order to obtain the required level. The language of instruction at public universities is Turkish. There are some universities that teach only some majors in the Arabic language, such as: University of Mardin – University of Gaziantep, and most of those majors are the specialization of the Arabic language.

Private universities adopt the English language as the primary language for teaching in all university majors.


Thus, we have talked in detail about the university stages in Turkey, and it must be noted that each university has its own independence regarding the regulations, curricula, university calendar and exams, but often universities are similar in many systems.