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The Darülfünün (Imperial Ottoman University) was the first institution of higher learning in the Middle East modeled along Western lines.

As a prominent symbol of the Tanzimat reforms, the Darülfünün the was the frequent victim of the Ottoman Empire's domestic politics in early years and suffered repeated closures. Its creation was first proposed in 1846 by Mustafa Reşid Paşa, but the school did not actually open until 1870, and then only for one year. On the impetus of the minister of education, Ahmet Cevdet Paşa, it was open again between 1874 and 1881. Then it remained closed until opening permanently in the fall of 1900, largely because of the efforts of a leading Ottoman politician, Mehmet Küçük Sait Paşa. Its curriculum included law, mathematics, chemistry, biology, philosophy, and the humanities, as well as courses on the Qurʾan, the hadith (traditions of Muhammad), and other aspects of Islam. In 1933, the Darülfünün was renamed Istanbul University, and it remains one of the preeminent universities in the Middle East.

See also Cevdet, Ahmet; Istanbul University; Mustafa Reşid; Tanzimat.


Lewis, Bernard. The Emergence of Modern Turkey, 3d edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Shaw, Stanford, and Shaw, Ezel Kural. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. 2 vols. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 19761977.

zachary karabell