Istanbul University

views updated


Largest and oldest public university in Turkey.

Founded in 1900 and reorganized in its present form in 1933, Istanbul University comprises the faculties of letters, science, law, economics, forestry, pharmacy, dentistry, political science, business administration, veterinary science, engineering, and two faculties of medicine, as well as schools of fish-eries, journalism, paralegal studies, and tobacco specialist education. With 3,500 teaching staff and 60,000 students (46 percent female) in 2002, it is Turkey's biggest university.

Istanbul University sometimes claims descent from the complex of eight madrasa colleges (religious schools) endowed by Mehmet II soon after the conquest of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453. However, a university in the European sense was first proposed in the era of Tanzimat, the Ottoman Empire's reform period in the 1860s. After some abortive attempts, the university was launched in 1900, incorporating newly established faculties and colleges founded in the previous two decades. After the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the staff as well as the programs of Istanbul University were suspected in Ankara, the new capital, of resistance to republican reform. Finally, in 1933 a complete overhaul of the academic programs and a purge of the staff brought it in line with republican thinking. This era of reestablishment was facilitated by the influx of large numbers of German and other European scholars, many of them Jewish, fleeing Nazi intimidation or persecution. The refugee scholars were especially active in the fields of law and economics, but other programs, including Islamic studies, benefited from a substantial European presence.

In spite of the government's attempts to promote Ankara University during the 1950s, Istanbul University remained the country's biggest and most prestigious academic establishment. Its academic staff and students were in the forefront of political protests in the late 1950s and during the 1970s. Its legal experts were influential in the preparation of the 1961 constitution, promulgated after the 1960 military coup. Its economists have been champions of Turkish membership in the European Union since the mid-1980s.

see also ankara university; madrasa.


Higher Education in Turkey. UNESCO, European Centre for Higher Education. December 1990.

The World of Learning, 2000. Available at <>.

i. metin kunt
updated by eric hooglund