Private boost for poor Turk region

July 5, 2002

A region of Turkey devastated by war is to be home to a new university.

Bilkent University, one of the country's leading private institutions, plans to build a university in the predominantly Kurdish southeast, where for 15 years Kurdish separatists and the state have fought a bitter war.

Bilkent's rector, Ihsan Dogramaci, said: "The southeast of the region is in urgent need of such a project, and that is why we have decided to do it."

The university, based near Sanurfa, should be completed in five to six years. It will serve 50,000 students, a third of whom will receive scholarships. The region is one of Turkey's poorest: average annual income is less than $1,000 (£650).

A third of the teaching faculty will be from overseas and English will be the medium of education.

Bilkent prides itself on its ties to the local community. Its Ankara students are encouraged to join voluntary projects in the poorest parts of the city and many of the university's facilities and cultural activities are open to the public. "The prices we charge for concerts don't even cover the cost of the flower arrangements," Professor Dogramaci said.

Bilkent is bankrolled by some of Turkey's largest industrial companies. Professor Dogramaci said he would like to get state support but did not expect much. "As contributions from them only ever account for 5 per cent of our costs in Ankara, we don't expect any major contributions for this latest project."

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