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Koç University

Koç University, a private higher education institution in Istanbul founded by the Vehbi Koç Foundation (VKV). It opened on a temporary campus in İstinye in 1993 and moved to a permanent campus in Rumelifeneri in 1999. Its mission as an exemplary educational and research institution is to bring together highly talented young people and skilled educational staff to support the development of creative, world-class graduates who can think critically and contribute to science on a global scale.

The management of the VKV, including Vehbi Koç and members of the Koç family, began working on the idea of founding a university after establishing Koç Private High School (see Koç School) in 1988. At a meeting of the VKV Board of Directors in September 1988, the decision was taken to set up a University Executive Committee and compile a feasibility report. The report was prepared by Professor Bülent Gültekin, Professor Özer Ertuna, Professor Işık İnselbağ and Professor Seha Tiniç. As a result of the committee’s investigation, it was concluded that the university should start as a small-scale but high-standard facility. It would be independently run, selecting its own students, and provide the most talented young people with an education of the highest quality that would enable them to contribute to the country as soon as possible; it would aim to be a “perfect” learning institution and a “center of excellence”. For the first stage, the report proposed a structure comprising three units: College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Administrative Sciences and Economics and the Graduate School of Business.

At the meeting of the VKV Board of Directors on December 20, 1989, the decision was taken to “found a university providing English-language education under the name Koç University”; the University Executive Committee was placed in charge of planning the investment, design and preparations for the official application. It was envisaged that the project would be financed by an investment fund composed of donations made by Koç Holding companies to the VKV over a five year period and that a working fund would also be established inside the VKV.

During the process of setting up the university, a number of unexpected bureaucratic and administrative difficulties were encountered regarding the legal procedure for establishing a foundation university, allocating land to the university, modifying construction plans, and managing the construction process. Tamer Şahinbaş was made director of Koç University (KU) in February 1990, after the foundation management took the decision to appoint an executive manager to solve these and other issues.

Following three years of work, KU’s establishment was legally completed on March 5, 1992, when the law relating to the establishment of the university was passed by the Turkish Grand National Assembly. The VKV Board of Directors designated the KU Board of Trustees on March 9, 1992. Rahmi M. Koç was chair of the board, which included Suna Kıraç, Ömer M. Koç, Can Kıraç, M. Fahir İlkel, Yavuz Alangoya, Bülent Gültekin and Tamer Şahinbaş. On March 16, 1992, Tamer Şahinbaş was appointed founding president of KU.
  On April 26, 1992, a ministerial cabinet granted a plot measuring 160 hectares, known as Mavromoloz State Forest, inside the borders of Rumelifeneri village to KU for a period of 49 years. However, when it emerged that construction work could not begin immediately, the search began for a temporary campus so that teaching could start sooner. Ultimately, the decision was taken to transform the old Türkay match factory in İstinye into a campus; the factory was already owned by the VKV and being used as a warehouse. The necessary arrangements were made over a short period of about nine months and by September 1993, the KU İstinye Campus was made serviceable, with classrooms, laboratories, a library, a gymnasium, cafe and canteen.
  The university’s academic structure was also formed during this period. Following recruitment work carried out by a research committee, composed of Suna Kıraç, Bülent Gültekin and Tamer Şahinbaş, decisions were taken to appoint Professor Seha Tiniç as president, Professor Seymour Smidt as dean of the College of Administrative Sciences and Economics, and Professor Attila Aşkar as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

KU began teaching 189 undergraduate and 42 postgraduate students at its İstinye Campus on October 4, 1993. Vehbi Koç taught the university’s first class on the same day, summarizing his expectations for the university, while referencing his own experiences. KU was formally declared open on October 12, 1993, and produced its first graduates in 1995, when a group of students completed MBAs. The undergraduate degree programs produced their first graduates in 1997.

Vehbi Koç’s first lesson, October 4, 1993

Today, in the West, the university and the business world work in nested fashion. Especially in the United States, managers from business and industry frequently hold lessons and conferences in universities, and participate in debates. I hope that this habit takes hold in our country and in our universities as well. My speaking here today and your first lesson is symbolic. As the founder of this university, I would like to convey some issues I have found useful from the “University of Life,” where I have been studying for the past 70 years. People learn something every day, yet the education and the learning of people who are open to novelty takes a lifetime and never ends.

First, I would like to tell you how the idea of opening a university came about. I met many businesspeople during my travels to the West. I saw that large, institutionalized firms employed many well-educated, talented young people, who were fluent in languages. This had a major role in the progress of developed countries and the consolidation of their economies. Today the power that makes America, that makes Japan is largely economic. This in turn is made possible with talented people who run these institutions. In similar fashion, I believe that it is important to raise well-educated young people who are fluent in languages so that Turkey can also develop.

We spent considerable effort to establish a good university in Turkey. We have completed the planning, however because of formalities, it has not been possible to set up a university in the desired location and with the desired admission conditions. The Vehbi Koç Foundation Board of Directors decided to establish the university in this temporary location to prevent loss of time, to ensure that young people receive education and that faculty can be hired as soon as possible. Hence now, here, Koç University started education…
Geleceğe Açılan Bilim Kapısı: Koç Üniversitesi Kuruluş Tarihi, Koç Üniversitesi Yayınları, İstanbul 2002, s. 18-19

The foundations for the permanent KU campus in Rumelifeneri were laid on May 31, 1996. The construction works began in September 1997 and were completed in November 1999. KU began the 2000-01 academic year at the Rumelifeneri Campus, which was officially opened in a ceremony in November 1999. The İstinye Campus was restructured as a modern education and meeting center where company managers could study for MBAs. In addition to its campuses at Rumelifeneri and İstinye, KU also operates from the Koç University Health Sciences Campus in Topkapı.

Vehbi Koç: “This university will remain and thrive in Turkey...”

I went to visit my father two weeks before he died. He felt suffocated by all the bureaucratic obstacles. He told me how he felt and I was sad that he was so upset. I said, “Father, forget all this business with the university. Let it stay in İstinye. Let’s invest in some other way and forget about Rumelifeneri”... He replied—and it became my legacy. I’ll never forget it. It was both a legacy and a guide: “I will die, you will die, the people causing all these problems will die... But this university will remain and thrive in Turkey...”
Geleceğe Açılan Bilim Kapısı…, s. 126
Thoughts on KU from The Koç Family

Since the day it was founded, the Vehbi Koç Foundation has served our country in three essential, fundamental matters which are necessary for the survival, welfare and happiness of individuals and society at large; they are education, culture and health. We work on the premise that expecting every effort and investment to come from the state is an outdated notion that needs to be abandoned. It’s our objective to help the state and society by bringing together private, personal and corporate means in projects for the public good. Koç University, supported by ongoing contributions from our foundation, the Koç Group and the Koç family, is the newest and finest example of this belief in action.

Semahat Arsel
The world is globalizing rapidly and turning into one big marketplace. The big institutions want to work with the most talented managers, regardless of nationality, religion or race. For this reason, we need to support young people in such a way that they can work in every country, every field and every sector with all kinds of people, training them to be wise, skilled, open-minded and equipped with determination and scientific knowledge. The greatest source of wealth for this country is well-educated young people and it was this belief that drove us to found Koç University. It has already won our society more admiration and acceptance than many of the other initiatives we have taken for the country. This institution is a source of pride for us and we foresee its students making significant, valuable contributions not just to their own sectors but to our country and the whole world.

Rahmi M. Koç
Education is too tough a job to be left entirely to the state. Economic crises can be overcome, political issues can be solved but it’s impossible to fix a society that has wasted its young people. With this belief, we wanted to do our part; our country has beautiful people and a beautiful landscape, let’s make sure its young people receive a great education too. We wanted to contribute towards raising highly skilled young people who will carry Turkey towards a strong and happy future. We wanted this modern educational institution to be an asset for Istanbul, Turkey and the world, not just with its educational and learning activities, but also with its architecture, its cultural environment and the human achievements it would stimulate... I hope that Koç University, born from this belief and longing, will be an example to everyone who shares similar values.

Suna Kıraç
Geleceğe Açılan Bilim Kapısı…, s. 15

Academic departments and teaching staff

The academic departments delivering English instruction at KU are: the College of Administrative Sciences and Economics, College of Engineering, College of Sciences, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Law School, School of Nursing, School of Medicine, Graduate School of Business, Graduate School of Health Sciences, Graduate School of Sciences and Engineering and the Graduate School of Social Sciences.

College of Administrative Sciences and Economics

This school is one of the first faculties founded at KU in 1993. It comprises Departments of Economics, Business Administration, and International Relations. In addition to the four-year degree course, the faculty also provides master’s programs in economics and master’s and doctoral programs in business and international relations.

College of Engineering

The college, founded in 1999, offers four-year undergraduate programs, master’s and doctoral programs in Computer Engineering, Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. It also runs interdisciplinary postgraduate programs in biomedical sciences and engineering (together with the College of Sciences and School of Medicine), computational science and engineering (together with the College of Sciences), materials science and engineering, industrial engineering and business management (together with the College of Administrative Sciences and Economics), molecular biology and genetics, and optoelectronics and photonic engineering.

College of Sciences

One of KU’s first two faculties founded in 1993, the College of Arts and Sciences, was split into two in 2008 to create one College of Social Sciences and Humanities and one College of Sciences. The faculty gives four-year undergraduate programs in Departments of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Molecular Biology and Genetics. It offers master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical sciences and engineering (together with the College of Engineering and School of Medicine), physics, mathematics, molecular biology and genetics.

College of Social Sciences and Humanities

One of KU’s first two colleges founded in 1993, the College of Arts and Sciences, was split into two in 2008 to create one College of Social Sciences and Humanities and one College of Sciences. The faculty teaches four-year degree courses on Archeology and Art History, English Language and Comparative Literature, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, and Media and Visual Arts. It also offers master’s programs in psychology, archeology and art history, and design, technology and society. Doctoral programs are offered in sociology and history.

Law School

The Law School, which began began teaching in the 2003-04 academic year, provides four years of legal education, excluding the English preparatory year. Classes relating to the Turkish legal system are taught in Turkish; other law courses with comparative, theoretical and international aspects are taught in English. In 2007, A research center was established to work on the subject of international commercial law with donations from Semahat Arsel and Dr. Nusret Arsel (see NASAMER).

School of Medicine

The school was founded with support from the VKV, in partnership with the American Hospital, with the aim of contributing a new and different outlook to medical education in Turkey. It had its first intake of students in the 2010-11 academic year. The school offers six-year programs of medical education, excluding the preparatory year, and the first three of these take place at the KU Rumelifeneri Campus. Subsequent clinic-based study takes place at the Koç University Hospital, which opened in Topkapı, Istanbul, in 2014.

School of Nursing

The Koç University School of Nursing was founded when the Admiral Bristol Nursing School affiliated with KU in 1999 and was turned into a college in 2016. The college, which is located in Koç University Hospital on the KU Health Sciences Campus in Topkapı, Istanbul, provides undergraduate teaching in nursing and also runs master’s and doctoral programs in various branches of nursing at the KU Graduate School of Health Sciences.

As of 2018, 13,400 students have graduated from KU, which currently offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses, with 22 undergraduate, 29 master’s and 26 doctoral programs. The university has a total of 194 research laboratories and operates 20 research centers, 5 research and education forums and 1 support center.

Tamer Şahinbaş (founding president; 1990-1992)
Seha Tiniç (1993-2001)
Atilla Aşkar (2001-2009)
Umran İnan (2009- )
AKMED (Koç University Suna & İnan Kıraç Research Center for Mediterranean Civilizations) ANAMED (Koç University Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations) GABAM (Koç University Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for Late Antique and Byzantine Studies) GLODEM (Center for Research on Globalization, Peace, and Democratic Governance) IAM (Koç University Drug Research Center) KABAM (Koç University–AKKIM Boron-Based Materials & High-technology Chemicals Research & Application Center) KOÇ-KAM (Koç University Gender Studies Center) KUAR (Koç University Arçelik Research Center for Creative Industries) KUASIA (Koç University Center for Asian Studies) KUSAM (Koç University Field Research Center) KUTTAM (Koç University Research Center for Translational Medicine) KUYTAM (Koç University Surface Technologies Research Center) KUREMER (Center for Global Public Law) KU-SPM (Koç University Social Policy Application and Research Center) KUTEM (Koç University Tüpraş Energy Center) KWORKS (Koç University Entrepreneurship Research Center) MiReKoc (Migration Research Center at Koç University) NASAMER (Dr. Nusret–Semahat Arsel International Business Law Implementation and Research Center) SANERC (Koç University Semahat Arsel Nursing Education and Research Center) VEKAM (Koç University Vehbi Koç Ankara Studies Research Center) Koç University Research and Education Forums CGF (Koç University Corporate Governance Forum) EAF (Koç University–TÜSİAD Economic Research Forum) KUDENFOR (Koç University Maritime Research Forum) KUSIF (Koç University Social Impact Forum) KUMPEM (Koç University Migros Retailing Education Forum) Koç University Support Centers EÇADEM (Koç University Support Center for Disabled Children and Their Families)

KU employs approximately 473 full-time members of teaching staff, many of whom have received numerous awards, including TÜBİTAK and TÜBA awards. KU is one of the universities with the highest proportion of international academic publications per member of staff in Turkey.

Student profile and scholarships

As a non-profit foundation university, KU is one of Turkey’s preferred universities among high-performing students, particularly for engineering, law and medicine studies. 51% of students who enrolled at the school in 2017 were selected from the top 20,000 students, and 74% were selected from the top 50,000. In the 2017-18 academic year, the number of undergraduate and postgraduate students amounts to nearly 7,000. KU has exchange program agreements with over 270 foreign universities from over 60 countries.
Out of KU’s 2018 intake of students, 53% of places were allocated to scholarship students. Students are awarded scholarships of 100%, 50% and 25% based on the results of university entrance exams, and 38% of these are full scholarships. Students may also receive help in the form of subsistence grants. The university’s Anatolian Scholarship Program assists highly talented students who have performed well in the undergraduate placement exam but are unable to pursue an education at KU for economic reasons. Aiming to expand equal access to the best education, the program has been in place since 2011 and is sponsored by personal and corporate donors.

Merhum Vehbi Koç’un olağanüstü ileri görüşlülüğü ve kararlılığı sayesinde 1993 yılında temellerini attığı Koç Üniversitesi’nin bu yıl 25. kuruluş yıldönümünü kutluyoruz. Üniversite olarak, akademik hayatta kısa sayılabilecek bu süre içinde gerçekleştirdiğimiz dünya standartlarındaki yatırımlarımız, ulusal ve uluslararası alanda başarılara imza atmış öğretim kadromuzla, bugün saygınlığı sınırları aşan bir kuruma dönüşmenin gururunu yaşıyoruz.

Bu süre içinde bilimsel araştırma programlarımızı o denli hızla geliştirdik ki, yeni öğretim üyesi ve doktora öğrencisi alımlarımız büyük ivme kazandı. Bilimsel araştırma ve geliştirme alanlarında Avrupa’dan en çok fon alan üniversite ve TÜBİTAK’tan da en çok proje desteği alan birkaç üniversiteden biri haline geldik.

Yine bu 25 yıl gibi kısa süre içinde dünyada ses getirecek araştırmalar yapılmasına fırsat verecek uluslararası standartlarda laboratuvar ve araştırma merkezlerini kurduk. Örneğin, 2014 yılında eğitim ve araştırma hastanesi olan, Koç Üniversitesi Hastanesi’ni hayata geçirdik. Bugüne değin Türkiye’de alınan en yüksek devlet fonu ile desteklenen Translasyonel Tıp Araştırma Merkezimiz faaliyete geçti. Rumelifeneri kampüsümüzdeki “Semahat ve Dr. Nusret Arsel Bilim ve Teknoloji Binası” sayesinde yeni teknolojik laboratuvarlar, sınıflar, yeni doktora öğrencileri ve öğretim üyeleri için çalışma mekânları yarattık. Bu yeni yapılanmayla, dünya üniversiteleriyle başa baş mücadelemizde çok daha güçlü bir konumda olacağımıza içtenlikle inanıyorum.
Abadan Unat, Nermin

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