PhD Study in Turkey – A Guide for 2023
Written by Chris Banyard
A PhD in Turkey could be the perfect choice for adventurous international students looking for unique study opportunities. Turkish universities have a long tradition of international exchange, relatively low fees and offer a high quality of doctoral training.
The guide proves an introduction to everything you’ll need to know if you want to study your PhD in Turkey, including information about Turkish universities, their PhD structure, fees, application requirements and student visas.
PhD opportunities in Turkey – what’s on offer for 2023?
Bridging between Europe and Asia, Turkey has played a pivotal role in Western and Eastern history. The country abounds with historical sites and monuments and is home to a rich and diverse range of cultures. Whether you’re making these the focus of your research or just enjoying them alongside it, you’ll have plenty to explore during a Turkish PhD.
Reasons to study your PhD in Turkey right now include:
- Crossroads between East and West – Turkey is a meeting point for arts, cultures and peoples, with no shortage of iconic attractions, vibrant festivals and inspirational research ideas
- Fast-growing economy – with the second-fastest growing economy in the world and developing markets and political impact, now could be a great time to study your PhD in Turkey
- Study in English – the strong international outlook of Turkish universities means that many doctoral programmes are taught in English
- Affordable – low living costs and tuition fees make Turkey a good value destination for PhD study
PhD Study in Turkey - Key Details
||Istanbul University (1453)
||September to June
Coronavirus updates for international students at Turkish universities
For the latest information on the impact of coronavirus on studying a PhD in Turkey, please check the official Study in Turkey page for updates.
PhD life in Turkey
Want to know more about life during a PhD in Turkey for international students? Our detailed guide covers everything from accommodation and living costs to culture and entertainment.
Universities and other higher education providers in Turkey are divided into public (or state) and private (or foundation) institutions:
- Public universities (Delvet Universiteleri) are funded mostly by the state. As a result, they charge relatively low tuition fees. They may use Turkish, English, German or French as their language of instruction.
- Private / Foundation universities (Ozel / Vakif Universiteleri) typically charge high tuition fees but tend to be more active internationally, form partnerships with industry, and usually use English for most (if not all) courses and programmes.
All Turkish universities are governed by the Turkish Higher Education Council (YOK). This ensures Turkish universities are internationally competitive and adhere to high standards of teaching.
Turkish university cities
There are several cities in Turkey with one or more universities and large numbers of students:
Turkish university rankings
Turkey has several universities that feature in the all three major university rankings tables, some of which are amongst the top 600 in the world according to these tables.
Do rankings matter for PhD study?
University rankings can help you choose a PhD project or programme, provided you know what to look at. Our guide explains how to use rankings as a prospective postgraduate.
Partly due to Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership, Turkish degrees follow the Bologna Process. Therefore, doctoral programmes in Turkey are broadly similar to other European PhD programmes.
However, Turkish PhDs typically follow a very structured process with well-defined stages and assessments. This includes several courses, seminars and exams to a total of 240 ECTS credits. There may also be a preparatory class at the beginning of your programme. Specific content will vary between universities and programmes, but all taught components must be completed for you to be awarded your PhD.
In Turkey, your doctoral development and thesis will be overseen by various supervision committees. Your main thesis supervisor will be a member of most of these committees. They will be an academic lecturer with expertise in your research area and will be appointed within the first year of your PhD. You may have a second supervisor, who can also be a member of these committees.
Firstly, you will be examined through the proficiency exam at the early stages of your doctorate. This is similar to the MPhil to PhD upgrade in the UK. A proficiency committee will examine your thesis proposal through two written assessments and one oral assessments. The proficiency committee also sets up an exam jury committee, who organise and evaluate various exams during the remainder of your doctoral training; the results of these exams will also be considered by the proficiency committee.
After successfully completing the proficiency exam and defending the purpose of your research, you will begin your PhD proper. During the doctorate you will be regularly assessed every six months by a follow-up committee. This functions as a regular evaluation of your progress, ensuring your PhD is on track. The committee will examine your current studies, results, methodology and the working plan for your research through a submitted report.
Final thesis exam
Once you have completed your research, your final PhD thesis will be assessed by a dissertation jury. This is similar to the viva voce exam in the UK, but it takes the form of a public thesis defence.
Overall, Turkey is an affordable location for doctoral study. In most cases, you can expect to pay low tuition fees and living costs. There are also some limited funding sources available for international students.
Turkish PhD fees
The tuition fees for English-taught PhD programmes at Turkish public universities are low, typically being around €500-1,000 per year for international students. Fees are even lower for Turkish citizens and for courses taught in Turkish. Bear in mind that exact amounts can vary somewhat depending on your university and doctoral programme.
PhD tuition fees at private universities in Turkey are significantly higher – around €5,250-17,500 per year. However, there are more funding options available at these institutions.
In addition to low tuition fees, studying for a PhD in Turkey offers good value for money due to the low cost of living in Turkish cities. Accommodation, food, entertainment and travel are all affordable in comparison to other countries. Normally, you can expect to spend around €345 per month.
Turkish PhD funding
Because PhD tuition fees at Turkish public universities are relatively low, doctoral funding is typically offered to Turkish nationals or students from more economically disadvantaged countries. Some of the funding sources available are:
- Türkiye Burslari – a variety of scholarships funded through the Turkish government, aimed at students from Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East and eastern Europe
- Tübitak – the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey offers research fellowships, but mostly for Turkish students
- Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) – funds PhD research programmes in Sustainability Science for students in IsDB member countries and Muslim communities
Additionally, individual universities often offer their own merit scholarships and grants for international PhD students.
Applying for a PhD in Turkey
Applications for doctoral degrees in Turkey can be slightly different compared to applications in the UK, mainly because of the use of entrance examinations. However, the overall process follows a similar route to most PhD applications.
The specific requirements and procedures can vary depending on your research institution and area of study – you should contact your potential university’s international office for more specific information.
PhD programmes in Turkey require you to hold relevant Bachelors and Masters degrees to be eligible. Most degrees from within Europe will be easily recognised, but different foreign degrees may require additional recognition to be accepted as equivalent qualifications.
PhD entry requirements
The general eligibility criteria for PhD applications in Turkey is similar to most other countries in the Europe. Our guide explains entry requirements for a prospective PhD student.
As a PhD applicant to a Turkish university, you will need to complete entrance exams to verify your subject knowledge and academic experience.
The major test used in Turkey is the Academic Personnel and Graduate Education Entrance Exam (ALES). The score required can vary somewhat but is usually a minimum of 50-70. The exams are held at scheduled times throughout the year, and you can found these dates and more information about the ALES at the examination coordinators ÖSYM.
You may also be accepted based upon the scores of alternative international admissions tests, such as the GMAT (typically requiring a minimum score of 500) and the GRE (typically requiring a minimum score of 685).
More information regarding the entrance examinations you will be required to take will be available from your prospective university.
Many PhD programmes in Turkey use English as the language of instruction. This is increasingly common and is often the case for newer Turkish institutions. To be admitted to one of these doctoral programmes as a non-native English speaker, you may be required to submit a score from an English language test. These may be internationally recognised tests such as TOEFL or IELTS, or be a test offered by the Turkish examination coordinator ÖSYM.
Even if your degree is not taught in Turkish, learning the language will be helpful for in your studies and in daily life.
Applying for a PhD
PhD applications in Turkey will require additional documents and processes. These are similar to those in the UK. Our guide explains PhD applications for prospective students.
In order to enter and live in Turkey for your PhD, you will be required to obtain a student visa and register your residence. Your prospective university will also assist you with these processes.
As Turkey is not yet a full EU member state, most international students wishing to study a PhD at a Turkish university must obtain a student visa (including those from the EU, EEA and Switzerland).
This can be done at the nearest Turkish consulate in your home country and should completed ahead of your travelling to Turkey (you will not be allowed to enter the country nor enrol at university until this is finalised).
Alternatively, you can apply for an eVisa – this method is simpler, faster and usually slightly cheaper.
There is an application fee associated with each visa application. The specific amount varies depending on your country of origin but is usually around €20-50.
To live in Turkey, all foreign students must obtain a residency permit (Ikametgah Belgesi). This must be done within one month of residence in Turkey.
This can be done online on Turkey’s Ministry of Interior Directorate General of Migration Management (IKAMET) or in person at a Bureau of Foreign Residence Registration or local police station.
Whilst resident in Turkey during your doctorate, you are required to be covered by a form of health insurance. You can register with Turkey’s Social Security Institution (SGK) or organise your own private insurance policy.
A Turkish PhD is an internationally recognised degree and an impressive achievement. The demanding admissions and assessments of a PhD in Turkey may also make you stand out from the crowd.
The unique location of Turkey at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and the multiculturism that it brings, should also prepare you for an academic or professional career on the global stage.
Can I work in Turkey after my PhD?
Typically, proficiency in the Turkish language is needed to pursue a career in Turkey. However, this is not always these case – there are several multinational companies based in Turkey.
To work in Turkey, you will need to apply for a work permit (Calisma Izni). The application process can be complex, and you may be required to leave Turkey and apply from your home country. Work permits are usually initially valid for one year, and the duration of validity increase with each subsequent renewal.
You will also need to update your visa and residency permit to reflect your new employment status.
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