Only two Turkish universities among world’s top 500 in 2019

Only two Turkish universities are among top 500 universities in the world, according to the 2019 rankings of Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), a British company specialising in education.

Koç University in Istanbul and Bilkent University in Ankara have the ranks 448 and 456 respectively in the 2019 World University Rankings, previously known as the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings. 

Eight Turkish universities made it to the 500-1,000 band, including state universities Middle East Technical University, Boğaziçi University, Istanbul Technical University, Ankara University, Gazi University, Hacettepe University, and Istanbul University, along with Sabancı University.

In 2018, five Turkish universities were among the best 500 universities in the world, while six others were in the 500-1,000 band.

The changes in the rankings of the Turkish universities indicate a serious decline particularly in the performances of state universities. In 2019 rankings by subject, state universities performed better, but once again relatively worse compared to previous years

Higher education in Turkey, which is home to 112 state and 74 foundation universities and vocational schools, has also been suffering the consequences of limits on freedom of expression and increasing political pressure in the country. 

Following a coup attempt in 2016, at least 23,427 academics have become unemployed in one year, with thousands being dismissed by government decrees under the emergency rule or lost their jobs as the universities they worked for were shut down by the government.

Turkish prosecutors have targeted many of the 2,200 academics who signed a 2016 petition calling for a peaceful end to the three-decades-old conflict with Kurdish rebels, with 468 have been put on trial as of early February.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tightened his grip over universities, issuing a decree in July which stripped much of the supervisory powers of the country’s education watchdog (YOK) and gave Erdoğan sole authority to appoint university rectors.