This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 9/26/2017


                                                                                                                                            Unit: Turkish students





2017 (est.)

Total students abroad





Total students in the U.S.





Undergrads in the U.S.





Grad students in the U.S.





Other students (Language, training, OPT)





Data sources: Turkish Ministry of National Education; the Institute of International Education
With an average age of 29, Turkey's population of nearly 80 million is relatively young when compared with many other countries.  Over 30% of the population is under the age of 18.  This young population provides considerable opportunities for international education institutions.

According to the Basic Law on National Education No. 1739, the Turkish school system has four different levels.

1) Pre-school Education: Pre-school education is not compulsory.  Most pre-schools are privately owned and some are attached to state primary schools.  They are concentrated in large cities to meet the needs of working parents.

2) Primary School Education: Primary school education is compulsory, starts at the age of 5.5 (66 months) and lasts eight years.  The Ministry of National Education reports that 10.49 million students were enrolled at 43,412 primary schools (includes elementary and secondary schools) in 2017.

In 2012, new legislation was enacted changing the Turkish school system.  According to the new “4+4+4 education system,” primary school education is divided into two levels: 

  • Elementary School: These schools cover the first four years of formal education.  Upon graduation, students continue to middle schools.

  • Middle School (also named Lower Secondary Schools): Students in middle schools have the option to study at general education middle schools, religious vocational middle schools, or vocational technical middle schools. 

3) Secondary Education: The new 4+4+4 system made secondary education mandatory, increasing the compulsory schooling period to 12 years.  Secondary education includes all of the general, science, Anatolian, foreign, vocational, and technical high schools that provide four years of education after primary school.  Entry into these categories is through composite scores obtained from a centralized exam for secondary school.

According to Ministry of National Education statistics, the number of high school students in Turkey is around 5.5 million (2017 figures).  There are 10,600 high schools, including public and private high schools.  Public high schools have limited resources and more students in one classroom compared with private schools.

4) Higher Education: Most undergraduate education at universities is four years, with some fields, such as medical schools, lasting six years and pharmaceuticals lasting five years.  There are also the “Meslek Yüksek Okulları,” literally “higher vocational schools” which offer 2 years of undergraduate study after high school and are similar to community colleges in the United States.

As of December 2016, there were 118 public and 65 private foundation universities serving 7.2 million students in various academic programs.  The 2016 figures reveal that 4.1 million students are enrolled in undergraduate programs, 480,000 in master’s programs, 91,000 in PhD programs.  Of these students, 3.4 million study in the Open University (distance education in the various subfields).  Public universities charge a small fee, whereas private university tuition costs range from $4,000 to $25,000 per year.  Many outstanding students of limited means are able to attend private universities on merit scholarships.
Entrance into universities is very competitive due to the limited capacity of Turkish universities.  Students need to take a two-tiered nationwide placement test given every year in March and June.  Each year an increasing number of students take these exams.  In 2016, 2,117,077 high school graduates took the exams and 23.6% of these applicants were enrolled in a 4-year program, 20% in a 2-year program, and 11% to the Open University.  The remaining students were unable to enter any higher education program.

The number of Turkish universities are insufficient to meet the increasing demand for higher education, thus there is a large Turkish student population studying abroad.  Many students willing to study abroad place American universities at the top of the list due to the quality of education and good career prospects.  Over 35,000 Turkish students go abroad for university education.  U.S. colleges and universities already attract around one third of these students for undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as specialized training.

The Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2016 data shows that Turkey, with its 10,691 students, is in 13th place in terms of origin for foreign students in the United States, right after the UK, and surpassing Germany, France and Spain.  Turkey holds the 2nd position after the UK among European countries.  Turkish students also constitute the 7th largest student body overall in the United States for intensive English study programs.

According to the Institute of International Education’s Fact Sheet on Turkey for the 2015-16 Academic Year, among the 10,691 Turkish students the level of enrollment is as follows: 

  • Undergraduate: 3,393;

  • Graduate: 5,125;

  • Other (Language, Training, OPT Courses): 2,173.

Leading Sub-Sectors

According to the Turkish Fulbright Commission, which is part of the EducationUSA network of the Department of State, following are the most popular fields of study chosen by Turkish students planning to study abroad:

According to the Turkish Fulbright Commission, the most popular fields of study chosen by Turkish students planning to study abroad are:

  1. Business administration and economics (especially MBA programs in finance, marketing and international business)

  2. Engineering, computer science and other technical fields

  3. English as a second language

  4. Short-term certificate programs and/or summer programs (mostly in business ESL)

  5. Social sciences, humanities and arts (mainly psychology, political sciences, architecture, and law)

  6. Mass communications (radio-TV, film, and video production)

  7. Medicine and other medical fields (for the most part, advanced level residencies)

  8. Natural and physical sciences

  9. Other fields



There are more students interested in higher education than can be accommodated by the Turkish universities.  Thus, good opportunities exist for American universities and colleges to explore a rapidly growing market.  The results of the central university placement exam in Turkey are not announced until mid-August.  Overseas schools that can accept unmatched or dissatisfied students for the second semester/quarter have an advantage.

The Ministry of National Education, the Council of Higher Education and many ministries offer scholarships each year to hundreds of successful students wishing to continue their studies abroad.  These students usually apply to top "brand name" universities.  Cost is not a critical factor in their decision-making process as the scholarship sponsors pay for their entire studies and the scholarship holders are usually bonded to work with their sponsoring organizations for about 4-8 years after they graduate.  The student decisions are based mostly on the reputations of institutions, the faculty, and the programs.

Due to the competitive nature of the Turkish labor market and the significant level of unemployment, many students feel the necessity to have a post graduate/masters degree to find a good job.  These programs are even more competitive, so students seek placement at foreign universities.  Graduate studies are the most popular level of enrollment for Turkish students.

Turkish universities are very open to various cooperation programs such as 2+2, 3+1 programs, double majors, etc., with American universities, so that their students have the opportunity to study during a part of their education in the U.S. institutions.

Many students and professionals opt for supplementary English language education to improve their command of English, as fluency in English provides a competitive advantage in job hunting and career prospects.  This opportunity gives U.S. firms a chance to compete in the market by providing private English language courses in Turkey and intensive language programs in the United States.

Other opportunities for U.S. educational institutions and companies include:

  • Professional language training in law, business administration, marketing, and technical English in Turkey and abroad;

  • Boarding schools;

  • Business and certificate courses for professionals in Turkey, particularly computer-based programs;

  • Distance education programs; and

  • Graduate programs and Ph.D. programs.

Web Resources

  • The Turkish Fulbright Commission: (Fulbright)

  • Turkish Ministry of National Education (For General Education): (MEB)

  • The Council of Higher Education (For Higher Education): (YOK)

For further information on this section and to learn more about the potential opportunities, contact:
Perim Akguner
Commercial Specialist
U.S. Commercial Service Turkey

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting

Turkey Education Trade Development and Promotion