Philanthropy or Hegemony: American Presence in Turkish Higher Education in a Historical Context

Yorgun İ.

3rd International Higher Education Studies Conference (IHEC 2018), Kayseri, Turkey, 11 - 13 October 2018, pp.128

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Kayseri
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.128
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Historically European education systems such as French and German densely influenced Turkish Higher Education in late 19th century and early 20th century when compared to the American. In fact, beneath the surface of the iceberg American presence in education system was as influential as the others. While the French and the German influence was partly due to Ottoman political bilateral relations with these countries; Washington extensively made use of the missionaries and disguised them in education, health and anything under benevolence and regardless of Ottoman communities, Muslim or non-Muslim. Throughout time it well understood that Americans were as destructive as the Europeans in various walks of life including but not limited to the institutions and the system of Turkish Higher Education. The mentioned timeline corresponded to a transitional period from the Ottoman Empire to the birth of modern Turkish Republic. Contrary to the understanding and applications of the Ottoman Porte, Turkish Republic under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's guidance was very cautious towards the pacific penetration of foreign education systems, traits or experts to Turkey; in other words it was a very balanced approach not to let a kind of supremacy of any foreign country such the United States in the New Republic in spite of the long lasting remarks of John Dewey and alike. However, this balanced approached was abandoned during Democrat Party rule and Washington became the dominant power in socio-cultural life. Constituting a significant part in social life, Turkish Higher Education with its land grant university system, to a certain extent, was copied and transformed Turkey with generous donations and grants of the American Foundations (Ford, Rockefeller etc.) established by wealthy businessman to the Turkish education system as well as with several state apparatus programs like Fulbright, AFS, Eisenhower scholarships to Turkish intellectuals, the country desperately needed not just for personal developments but for the country's future. This was an interesting period when American educational experts outnumbered their counterparts invited from other countries. This historical trajectory and the discussion will shed light on how the Turkish Higher Education has evolved to its current status.