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Robert College

Robert College, officially known today as ROBERT COLLEGE OF ISTANBUL, the oldest American educational institution still operating outside of the USA. Vehbi Koç Foundation (VKV) supported the school with donations.

Following the establishment of a boys’ school in 1863, a school for girls, which later became known as the Arnavutköy American College for Girls, was opened in 1871. In 1971, the two schools merged into a co-educational institution under the name Robert College. According to the 1878-79 College Catalog, the school’s aims were to “provide a comprehensive education like that of a first class American school, based on the same principles, and given to all students regardless of race or religion.”

The original school, launched by the American missionary and educator, Cyrus Hamlin with financial support from the businessman and philanthropist Christopher R(hinelander) Robert, began with four male students in an old wooden building in Bebek on September 16, 1863. The school’s first campus was built in 1869 on the outskirts of Bebek (currently Boğaziçi University’s South Campus). In 1871, with the support of an American group, a school for girls opened at Gedikpaşa. In 1876, the school moved to a new campus in Üsküdar, moving again in 1914 to a more extensive campus in Arnavutköy.

When Christopher Robert died in 1878, he left a large portion of his fortune to Robert College. The school was later supported by donations from philanthropic individuals and organizations including the VKV and the Hisar Educational Foundation. (See also Suna Kıraç Hall)

For a long time, Robert College and the Arnavutköy American College for Girls were autonomous entities, but in 1932 they were brought under a single director, and in 1959 under the management of the same board of trustees. In 1957, Robert College was granted higher education status and began offering university-level education at its Bebek campus as Robert College Undergraduate Department. In 1971, Robert College and the American School for Girls in Arnavutköy merged into a co-educational entity on the Arnavutköy campus, retaining the name Robert College. That year, the Bebek campus was transferred to the government, and Robert College Undergraduate Department became a state university called Boğaziçi University.

With the introduction of eight-year mandatory primary education in 1997, Robert College closed its middle school but continued as a high school. Today’s students have a bilingual high school education for five years, starting with their English preparatory first year.

Graduates of the 26-hectare campus in Arnavutköy include two Turkish prime ministers, four of Bulgaria's prime ministers, and many prominent business people, politicians, scientists and artists. It is a member of the G20 School Group and holds a New York State Association of Independent Schools accreditation.

The school has an annual intake of around 200 pupils and runs over 100 activity clubs. The Student Council has organized an annual Fine Arts Festival every May since 1982, and the school hosts numerous other events, such as the International Istanbul Youth Forum, the International Model United Nations Conference, the Turkish Theater Festival and the Ethics Forum. The school also produces periodicals including the monthly Bosphorous Chronicle, the bi-monthly Köprü (Bridge) newspaper, the science journal Kingdom Robertea, the multilingual publication Polyglot, and three literary magazines: Kaleidoscope, Martı (Seagull) and Oda (Room).

Abadan Unat, Nermin

Political scientist who received the Vehbi Koç Award for education in 2012.