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Turkish Education Foundation

Turkish Education Foundation (Türk Eğitim Vakfı, TEV), a non-governmental organization run for the benefit of the public, founded with the aim of ensuring that successful but financially disadvantaged young people have access to an education. It was established on May 4, 1967 by 205 philanthropists led by Vehbi Koç, Nejat Eczacıbaşı, the rector of Istanbul University, Professor Ekrem Şerif Egeli, and the rector of Istanbul Technical University, Professor Bedri Karafakioğlu. TEV’s most important goal is “to enable people to produce and use knowledge”; its most important outlook is “to provide environments where people can harness their abilities to contribute towards humanity and help achieve the ideal of a modern Turkey”. 

The foundation’s highest decision-making and supervisory body is the board of trustees and the highest executive body is the board of directors. The first chair of the board of directors was Nejat Eczacıbaşı (1963-71), followed by Vehbi Koç (1971-93), Aydın Bolak (1993-2001), Ömer Dinçkök (2001-04), Rona Yırcalı (2004-07), Ömer M. Koç and Rona Yırcalı for a second time (2016- ). Based in Istanbul, the foundation has branches in 12 cities, including Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Eskişehir, Izmir, Kayseri and Trabzon. The TEV also receives support from the Vehbi Koç Foundation; its sources of income comprise legacy gifts contingent upon the donor’s death, grants and donations from people and institutions, and donations made by purchasing TEV wreaths.

TEV provides scholarships for “successful but financially struggling students attending technical and industrial vocational high school, vocational college, college, or studying for undergraduate, master’s or doctoral degrees”. Scholarship students are selected by scholarship committees arranged by the educational institutions themselves and attended by a representative of TEV. In addition, a number of scholarships are allocated annually to disabled or orphaned students who have earned a higher education place, or children from families who have been affected by natural disasters. While scholarship students will continue to receive their scholarships until the end of their studies, scholarships are removed for those who are unsuccessful, are in receipt of a scholarship from another institution, or do not meet the criteria for the TEV scholarship. 

Scholarship students who reach the level specified by the Home Scholarships and Awards Code also receive “Success Awards”. In 2007, 40 years after the foundation was established, it began awarding “Scholarships for Outstanding Success” to support the leaders of the future. TEV was the first organization to do this in Turkey. In addition to supporting its scholarship students financially, TEV also engages in social activities to support their social development.

TEV’s scholarships for studies in Turkey are non-repayable but, as a general rule, scholarship students agree to make a monetary or moral contribution to TEV once they have graduated and begun their careers, or they agree to provide a TEV scholarship to at least one other student as an obligation of conscience if they have the means to do so in future. The students provide a document confirming that they have accepted the obligation.

Since 1969, TEV has also provided postgraduate scholarships for studies abroad. When scholarship students complete their studies abroad, they are obligated to return home and pay back the sum they received from TEV during the course of their studies. TEV provides these scholarships in cooperation with the governments of Germany, France and Singapore and public and private institutions in Denmark, Italy, Spain and Japan.

TEV allocates approximately one million dollars to its scholarship fund annually and this is increased to three million dollars by contributions from partner institutions.

TEV has introduced a female dormitory project to meet the needs of those young women who arrive in large cities for their university education, ensuring they receive modern, safe and comfortable housing. These dormitories, located in Ankara, Izmir and Trabzon, accept both funded and fee-paying students. 

Since its foundation, TEV has provided approximately 237,600 scholarships for studies in Turkey and 1,821 scholarships for studies abroad. Additionally, it has built a kindergarten, 15 elementary schools, an Anatolian high school, an Anatolian High School for Fine Arts, two Health Vocational High Schools, three student dormitories, a multi-purpose community center (Batman), an apprenticeship center (Tekirdağ) and a library. The İnanç Türkeş Private High School has also operated as part of TEV since 2001.

In 1995 and 1998, TEV was declared “Foundation of the Year in the Educational Field”. Another of its educational projects is the “Turkey’s Moneybox for Van” campaign, started by a partnership between TEV and Turkcell following the 2011 Van earthquake and run under the auspices of the Ministry of Education; it was cited as a global model by the UN. TEV’s other projects include the “Project-planning for Teachers Project” and “Leadership for Teachers Program”. TEV also organized the “First International Gifted and Talented Education Symposium” on September 23-24, 2010, in collaboration with Koç University and Ministry of Education. It also supports the “7 is Too Late” campaign, led by AÇEV.

I’ve always believed that education is deeply important for a country to develop quickly. It’s crucial to provide this support to young people who wish to study but lack the financial means to do so. The state actually provides a number of scholarships, but in my view, it’s wrong to expect everything from the state. With this in mind, I set my mind to the need for a facility to provide scholarships for students in higher education. I consulted with trusted friends, particularly late Ahmed Dallı, on how this should be achieved. No matter who we spoke to, there was a great deal of interest and finally, in 1967, the Turkish Education Foundation was established. When the Foundations Law was passed, the foundation took on its current form.

The foundation had 205 founding members. When it was first founded, Dr. Nejat Eczacıbaşı was chair of the board of directors and I assumed the role after him; in 1971 we switched places. Now (1973), I’m the chair and Nejat Bey is vice chair.

In 1968, I traveled around 22 cities to raise awareness of the foundation outside of Istanbul and, in each city center, I spoke to leading businessmen and directors, explaining the purposes of the foundation. I asked for support for the foundation. Since the TEV was established, it has attracted great interest from the public and been of immense benefit for the education of young people. I think that as time passes, it will be even more beneficial.

In 1972, we decided to collect capital to ensure the continuity of the foundation. For the first time in my life, I put myself out, approaching large institutions and leading businessmen to ask for support.

Not one of them turned me down. My friends in the foundation did the same and we succeeded in collecting five million lira of foundation capital, 900,000 of which came from the Koç Group.  One of TEV’s sources of income is legacy donations. Citizens who believe in the cause agree to donate their wealth to the foundation after they die. Another reasonably new source of income is the Flower Fund.
Vehbi Koç, Hayat Hikâyem (My Life Story), 4th Edition, Vehbi Koç Vakfı Yayınları, Istanbul 1983, p. 121
Abadan Unat, Nermin

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