Bilkent University was founded on October 20, 1984 by Ihsan Dogramaci through the resolution of the foundations which had earlier been established by him. The establishment of this private university was later approved by an act of Parliament. The aim was to create a center of excellence in higher education and research. The name "Bilkent" exemplifies the founder's aim, since it is an acronym of "bilim kenti," Turkish for "city of science and knowledge."
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.
In October 1986 Bilkent University admitted its first students. That year there were 386 undergraduate and graduate students. Currently there are over 10,000 students in nine faculties, two four-year professional schools, two two-year vocational schools and the School of English Language plus six graduate schools (called institutes). Among them are foreign students from 72 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 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, Purdue, Johns Hopkins, University of Maine, University of Texas at Austin, University of Missouri, Bowling Green State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Carthage College, Franklin and Marshall College in the US; University of Laval and McGill University in Canada; and Tel-Aviv University in Israel. Bilkent is a member of NIBES (Network of International Business and Economic Schools) and exchange programs are established with Pforzheim University in Germany and the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Clarmont and the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Lille of France. The university also has a communications office at 600 Madison Avenue in New York City, equipped with interactive video conferencing capabilities. A number of courses are delivered through this office via satellite connection.
To meet the expanding needs of the university, construction has continued throughout the years since the admission of the first students. New buildings and facilities include two gymnasiums; the Faculties of Humanities and Letters, Economics, Administrative and Social Sciences, Art, Design and Architecture, Science, the Computer Center, and Music and Performing Arts; a Concert Hall for the Bilkent Academic Symphony Orchestra; a secondary school, a preschool and nursery; new dining facilities; two health centers and a pharmacy; and the East Campus which has additional classroom space, catering facilities, and student and faculty housing.
The Career Development and Placement 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 1,600,000 high-school graduates take the national examination to enter the 53 state and 23 private universities in Turkey. Bilkent gets many of the very best of these students. For example, in the 2003 examination, 33 of the top 100 scorers chose Bilkent.
The faculty is comprised of an academic staff from 43 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.