It had long been an objective of the founder to establish a private university distinguished by its high quality education and research. The founder, himself an academician by profession, had earlier contributed to the establishment of numerous public institutions of higher learning and served as rector of Ankara University, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Middle East Technical University and founder and first rector of Hacettepe University.
Preparations for Bilkent University had begun as early as 1967, with the purchase of a large tract of land to the west of Ankara. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the above mentioned foundations undertook construction, on the future site of Bilkent, of the buildings which now house administrative offices, the Faculty of Engineering, and the library. Construction of residences for academic staff, cafeterias, student dormitories, the Student Union building and various academic buildings followed in rapid succession.
Currently there are about 12,000 students in nine faculties, two four-year professional schools and three two-year vocational schools. Among them are foreign students from different countries. With funds from the endowments provided by the founder, the university each year awards full scholarships to over 2,500 students of high academic achievement.
From the outset, the design of the university structure provided for student union representatives to be voting members of the administrative committees of various schools, as well as of the University Senate. Beginning in the second year of instruction, the practice of student evaluation of courses and instructors, at the time not a common practice in Turkey, was instituted.
To promote the enrichment of teaching and research programs, Bilkent University entered into collaborative projects and exchange programs with many universities abroad. Bilkent has student exchange agreements with the University of California system, Georgia Institute of Technology, Maryland University, Washington University, Michigan University in the USA; McGill and Montreal Universities in Canada; Tilburg and Amsterdam Universities in the Netherlands; Pforzheim and Konstanz Universities in Germany; Roma and Bacconi Universities in Italy; Southern Denmark University in Denmark; Essex University in England; Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Lille and Clarmont University in France; Waikato University in New Zealand. The complete list of partner Universities can be found at www.bilkent.edu.tr. The university also has a communications office at the Empire State Building in New York City, equipped with interactive video conferencing capabilities. A number of courses are delivered through this office via satellite connection.
The Career Center, another service established at the incentive of Bilkent's founder early in the University's development, helps final-year students to acquire the skills necessary to apply successfully for a job. The Center arranges interviews between representatives of major corporations and students seeking employment.
Each year, more than 1,500,000 high-school graduates take the national
examination to enter the state and private universities in Turkey.
Bilkent gets many of the very best of these students. For example, in the 2008 examination, 34 of the top 100 scorers chose Bilkent.
The faculty is comprised of an academic staff from around 40 different countries. Most of them were working in prominent universities in North America and Europe when they received offers from Bilkent University. According to ISI Citation Indexes, Bilkent continues to be first in Turkey in number of published papers per faculty member and ranks high internationally.