2020, Cilt 10, Sayı 1, Sayfa(lar) 045-055
Women in Higher Education in Turkey: What Has Changed in 100 Years?
Aylin ÇAKIROĞLU ÇEVİK1, Ayşe GÜNDÜZ HOŞGÖR2
1TED University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology, Ankara, Turkey
2Middle East Technical University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology, Ankara, Turkey
Keywords: Woman, Higher education, Eurostudent project, Turkey
In Turkey, women acquired the right to obtain higher education in 1914. Womens demand for higher education, the increased number of
high schools and the needs of teacher-training schools for girls led to an increase in the number of women in higher education over time.
After the nation-building process in 1923, new universities were opened across the country and the number of women in higher education
has increased from 22 (0.73%) (in 1914) to 3 675 986 (47.5%) (in 2018-2019). Within this framework, this paper aims to explore
how female students profiles have changed over the last 100 years. What is the social make-up of the female students who enrolled in
universities nowadays? What are the differences and/or similarities among women who attended the universities as first women students
and those of today? Drawing on the Eurostudent Survey IV (2011), these questions are elaborated regarding womens socio-demographic,
family and educational backgrounds. Outcomes are discussed within the context of the modernization history of Turkey.
Generally, consideration of the place of women in Ottoman
society began with the discussion of the women question ,
which has addressed the social, political and economic status
of the women, and occurred as part of the modernization and
secularisation movements during the Tanzimat era (1839-
1876) (Kandiyoti, 1991a; Çakır, 1996). Modernist intellectuals
and some in the ruling class evaluated it as the cause of
backwardness and as a problem that needed to be solved.
To them, it was necessary to raise the status of women for
development and improvement (Sancar, 2012). The solution
was to give women more education and to underline the role
of educated women within the family. However, according to
Tekeli (1985), this did not mean that women should have an
independent identity as decision-makers or be rid of the control
of men as decision-makers. On the other hand, conservatives
or Islamists defended the view that the status of women should
be preserved and the traditional structure maintained (Göle,
2004). According to this view, there was no need for women to
take a more significant place in the public sphere, to raise their
educational level or to have equal rights to men.
Before discussing the role of the Tanzimat era on women,
it would be better to mention the education system in the
Ottoman Empire. In the Conventional Ottoman Education
System, before Tanzimat it was not possible for girls to
continue their education after sıbyan school, which might
be accepted as a primary school based on religious training
(Caporal, 1982; Akşit, 2004, 2012). On the contrary, boys were
eligible to continue to other technical schools opened in the
later years in order to train to be technical staff for the madrasa
(Muslim theological school)1 and/or army. Furthermore, via
the devshirme system which was a rendering service to the
Sultan as a bureaucrat or a soldier by talented and young
male children who were discovered after the conquests and
trained in the court (Kazamias, 1966), boys could receive an
education in the Enderun whose main function was to raise
the administrator and statesman (Ataünal, 1993) at the court,
as well. The women at the court could take courses such as
reading and writing, and sewing, at the harem which was the
womens section in the court. Furthermore, families of the
bureaucrat class would provide an education to their male and
female children at their own mansions. In short, while rural
girls could go to sıbyan school, which was not necessary until
Tanzimat in general, the girls of urban and bureaucrat families
could receive a private education at their mansions (Akşit,
In fact, Tanzimat was a response to the Western economic,
technical and military pressure and modernization effort
(Kandiyoti, 1991b). Moreover, the other areas of social life,
especially the Ottoman Court, began to come under the effect
of the change in the world. For example, it was during this
period that European duennas were hired to train the girls of the bourgeoisie class and the new bureaucrats that came into
being with the changes in the social structure (Tekeli, 1997;
Davis, 1986). Under the effect of westernization, duennas were
employed so the children could learn a foreign language as an
important sign of status.
In the Tanzimat era, it was decided that rüştiyes (i.e. Ottoman
secondary/junior high school) should be opened, which would
enable girls to continue secondary education after sıbyan
school (Tekeli, 1985; Baskın, 2007; Caporal, 1982). However,
these schools did not become common. Almost all of them
were in Istanbul, and their number was inadequate (Çakır,
Despite the negative social viewpoint on the training of women,
there were attempts by the ruling class and elites to include
women in the field of education. The reason behind these
attempts is the relationship between the backwardness of the
society and the backwardness of women (Jayawardena, 1986).
The solution is that women should be reshaped by doing that
their duties would be determined and a new ideal woman
type would be formed. It is the reason for the backwardness
of the society was that children were not well educated due to
their ignorant or illiterate mothers. Mothers had a big role in
the upbringing of children so they could be useful for the state
and nation. Accordingly, womens social duty was to become a
good mother (Toska, 1998; Tekeli, 1997). The rural and urban
women who were uneducated and imitated Western women
were to be well educated so that they could be a good mother
and bring up their children well.
Furthermore, in the Tanzimat era, the primary school became
compulsory for girls and boys to attend and it was decided that
the number of rüştiyes for girls should be increased (Caporal,
1982). The rüştiyes were free-of-charge and non-compulsory
institutions where religious values and social gender roles were
taught so girls would learn how to be a good wife and mother
(Jayawardena, 1986). Because it was not considered right in
religious terms for girls to share the same space as boys of
the same age, or because girls had reached the age at which
they should keep away from boys (Dulum, 2006), there arose
the problem of who would become their teachers. At first,
old male teachers attended their courses because they were
considered to be reliable and licensed (Akşit, 2012), but later
it was decided that teacher-training schools (Darülmuallimat)
should be opened to train female teachers (Caporal, 1982;
Another type of vocational school opened in this period for
women was female industrial schools. Their number increased
year by year, and the students profile was largely composed
of young, urban and low-income girls. Thus, male and female
industrial schools would later enable members of the lower
socioeconomic class to enter the field of production (Akşit,
On the one hand, non-Muslim schools enabled the upper class
to reproduce itself and create female elites, while rüştiyes,
midwife- and teacher-training schools, and especially industrial
schools emphasized the education of lower classes and offered
alternatives to them (Akşit, 2012). However, these schools
did not become widespread, so only some women from the
urban bourgeoisie class could attend them. In this case, what is
important is the household heads, namely the fathers, view of
girls education (Davis, 1986). For example, Halide Edips father
as the supporter of westernization ideology was the clerk of
the court and she started to learn English at the age of seven
Considering the eras ideology with regard to women and
education, it seems that girls were expected to attend school
for the purpose of being a good mother, a good wife and a
good Muslim (Kandiyoti, 1991a). In this period of pressure, it
was impossible to think that women should have a job and take
place in the public sphere. However, the increase in womens
literacy under Abdülhamid II became influential in the feminist
movement and womens organizations (Abadan-Unat, 1998).
Therefore, under the effect of the eras on increase in freedom
and the rate of literacy (primarily among the urban and upperclass
women), women played a role as activists/subjects in
struggling their and societys freedom through expressing their
demands, thoughts and reactions thanks to associations and
journals (Kandiyoti, 1991b; Çakır, 1996; Sancar, 2012)
Womens demand for education, the struggle of the womens
movement in this area, the increased number of rüştiyes and
idadis (i. e. Ottoman secondary schools), and the inadequate
number of teacher-training schools for girls gave birth to the
need for womens inclusion in higher education. According to
Baskın (2007), modernization, which relied on social, economic
and political transformations, required the creation of the
new woman and involvement of women in higher education.
At first, womens higher education, which started at some
conferences in Darülfünun (the only university in Ottoman
Empire), was institutionalized by the opening of İnas
Darülfünunu (1914), which can be called as womens
university (Baskın, 2007; Caporal, 1982). In the early years,
all the women who passed the entrance exam could register
at İnas Darülfünunu. That is, not only the graduates of public
education, which included Rüştiye, Idadi, and teacher-training
schools but also those who took private education could apply
for the entrance exam. The entrance exam was difficult, so
private tutoring courses and institutions were opened in the
following years that prepared women for the entrance exam
In the first years of İnas Darülfünunu (between 1914 and
1919), just 129 women registered. Baskın (2007) makes such
a notable evaluation about the socio-economic background of
At İnas Darülfünunu, there were mültezims children
who could be labeled as the elites of the traditional
social structure as well as students from the families of
army members, and the children of governor, revenue officer, principal registrar. While the class origin of these
students varied, it would not be wrong to assume that
most of them exhibited petit-bourgeois features parallel
to the background of newly-developed social forms and
that the students from the state officials families were
Opened in Istanbul and attended by a limited number of
women, İnas Darülfünunu was officially closed in 1921 as a
result of the demonstrations against the non-coeducational
system. Thereafter, coeducation was adopted in Darülfünun
(Abadan-Unat, 1981; Baskın, 2007). In other words, womens
demand for and determination to take part in a coeducational
system became the reason for the closure of İnas Darülfünunu.
When the women graduated from İnas Darülfünunu, they
could become teachers in their working life. When women
were allowed to receive an education in the fields of medicine,
dentistry, and pharmacy (1917) (Dulum, 2006), they started to
have different jobs.
After the declaration of the Turkish Republic and in the building
process of the nation-state, education seems to be used as
part of this process. In the first period, from 1923 to 1950,
education had the function of creating national identity, unity,
and consciousness of citizenship. Education undertakes a big
role in a society that shifts from multiethnic, multireligious,
theocratic and agrarian empire to secular, unitary nationstate
(Rankin et al., 2006) and that is expected to reach the
level of contemporary civilization. There are two functions of
education in this period: 1) The rate of literacy is low, and so
it is necessary to shape the population, most of whom live in
rural areas and whose literacy rate is low, as new individuals
who have adopted the nation-state, citizenship, secularism,
and Kemalist ideology. Therefore, education served the
new orders purpose of acculturation for this purpose. 2) As
mentioned in the Economy Congress of İzmir, there is a need
to train the manpower that is required to exist in the capitalist
world (Çakıroğlu-Çevik, 2015)
Changing the educational facilities that had been provided by
the Ottomans to a certain class and more to men within that
class, and presenting them to each class and women equally,
Kemalist ideology created a big revolution in the social status
of women through the laws securing gender equality. It was
state feminism (Tekeli, 1985). Any transformation in the field of
womens rights and male-female equality meant secularisation,
modernization, civilization and disengagement from Ottoman
Empire. While the state was supporting women to take part
in public life by giving them educational, professional, political
and social rights, it also tried to educate the women who made
up the majority of the population, had a low level of literacy
and could hardly reach higher education. These women were
not expected to be elite women, but the intention was that
they would become educated housewives who knew home
economy; would become useful, knowledgeable and full of
initiative; and could transfer the Republican ideology to the
next generation for national identity.
The second period, between 1950 and 1980, faced changes
in educational institutions due to the political and economic
ideology, social transformation and international relationships.
In particular, the population increase parallel to the
developments in health, migration from the rural to the urban
space and urbanization leave their mark on the educational
changes in this period. Firstly, as education institutions fail
to meet the demand increasing in the urban areas, the state
allows the new private schools to be opened especially in urban
areas. This case would later cause socioeconomic background
differences. For instance, the urban and middle-upper class
families as well as daughters of these families- benefited
from these advantages. Secondly, because of compulsory
primary education, the secondary education demand
increased and afterward these led a huge interest in higher
education. Therefore, a lot of new universities were opened in
many cities besides Ankara and İstanbul. However, the newlyopened
universities failed to meet the demand for university
in time, depending on the increased domestic migration,
urbanization, population rise and economic policies, so new
practices and institutions such as Open Education Faculty of
Anadolu University, teaching via letters were placed into as
alternatives. Additionally, the practice of central exam to select
and place student at the universities was enforced in this
period by Inter-University Student Selection and Placement
Centre (Turkish abbreviation, ÜSYM) (Çakıroğlu-Çevik, 2015).
After 1980 as the third period, the neoliberalist approach,
intense demand and competition have resulted in privatizations
in many fields, including education. Education starts to be
transformed into a good or a consumption good desired by
all the segments of society. Moreover, the idea that higher
education is as a mean of upward mobility and physical work
is an inferior status leads to competition in access to higher
education. The role of the state in education decreased and
private enterprises have taken their place in every field
of education. The privatization of education causes only a
privileged class to benefit from this service and consequently
class, regional and gender inequalities become deeper. In other
words, womens, rural peoples and lower-class members
access to education are more difficult than mens, urban
peoples and middle-upper class members because of the
big race for prestigious schools/universities and departments
in universities. On the other hand, after 80s, it is seen that
participation in secondary and higher education increased
among women (Çakıroğlu-Çevik, 2015).
In sum, after the nation-state building process along with
industrialization, other socioeconomic development, and many
related sociological factors mentioned above new universities
have opened across the country. Thus, while the number of
universities in Turkey has reached 206, the number of women in higher education has increased from 22 (0.73%) (in 1914)
(Baskın, 2007; Ergün, 1996) to 3675986 (47.5%) (in 2018-2019)
(Council of Higher Education of Turkey, 2019)2. In other words,
the participation rate of women in higher education has risen
from 9.8% in 1923 to 45.6% in 2011 (Turkish Statistical Institute,
2013). These numbers indicate that there have been significant
changes in womens educational status.
To conclude, as seen the numbers and participation of women
in universities have increased. Certainly, this expansion in
numbers3 has been the outcome/consequence of the social
and economic transformation in Turkey on the macro-level
and socioeconomic status of the female student in microlevel:
In Ottoman Empire, the first female students in higher
education were from high socioeconomic status and highly
educated families and urban areas. On the other hand, what/
how about in contemporary Turkey? Who are the female
students in higher education nowadays? Are they still coming
from high socioeconomic background or urban areas? Can
rural women reach to university education? What extent?
By comparing the first female students with recently female
population in the universities, can we elaborate the differences
and/or similarities among the women in higher education in
Turkey? In sum, what has been changed in the nature of the
female university students profile? In the next section, we will
elaborate on these questions by applying quantitative research
via Eurostudent Survey IV.
This study depends on Eurostudent Survey IV (2011) which is
part of the EUROSTUDENT project4
. It has been coordinated
by Higher Education Information System (HIS) (in Hannover,
Germany), and carried out since 2000 to provide a wide
range of data on the demographic characteristics and social
make-up of the national student populations, models of
access and attendance and types of higher education, types
of accommodation, funding and state assistance, living
expenses and student spending, so forth. Turkey participated
in this project in the third round in 2007 and in 2011, which
is the fourth round of the project but the second in Turkey
(Orr et al., 2011). The main survey method used in Turkey
is an online survey in the spring semester of 2010, and the
sampling technique is simple random sampling (10% from
each university). The initial sample was 152144, but the return
rate was relatively low (12.8%), so the final sample is 19479 for
Turkey (Orr et al., 2011).
Therefore, Eurostudent Survey IV (2011) questionnaire and
data were utilized for the reasons that it is the most recent
tertiary student research at the national level and it contains
several questions as mentioned above. However, for our study,
second-year upper high school students (who constitute 0.1%
of the sample), graduate students (who constitute 11.4% of the sample) and distance education students (who constitute
2.5% of the sample) were excluded because undergraduate
(bachelor) students who enrolled in any faculty except distance
education are our main case. With all these exclusions, the data
set is reduced to 16817 individual cases. But more specifically,
the sample size for women is 8500 out of a population of 16
This study is aimed to figure out the female university students
profile to elaborate on the differences and/or similarities
between first women in the university and by doing that
to cover the changes in terms of socioeconomic, regional,
educational status of female students. In this sense, the
methodological framework of the study covering variables and
data analyses is like that:
Considering the drawing on the second-hand data and its limitations,
the dimensions are classified under three subtitles:
socio-demographic, family background and educational background
characteristics, For socio-demographic characteristic,
age and the living place until the age of 12 years old; for family
background characteristic, parents education level, family
education level, parents employment status, parents occupations,
students monthly income from parents and students
monthly expenses from parents; for educational background
characteristic, type of high school, region of secondary school,
kindergarden and private-tutoring attendance will be used as
variables. Therefore, they enable both to describe the profile
of female students nowadays and to compare them with the
first female students in the university in Turkey.
The crosstabs for the categorical level of measurement and
t-test analysis for the numerical level of measurement are used
to establish the relationship among variables by gender.
As seen from the table below, although the average age for
all undergraduate students is around 21, there is a significant
difference between female (M=21.1244, SD=1.79078) and
male (M=21.5604, SD=1.90520) students in terms of age
This can be related to the significant difference between
genders in terms of a direct transition to higher education:
females (66%) are more likely to directly enter tertiary
education (i.e. no interruption between high school and tertiary
education), compared to males (58.9%). According to Özsoy
(2002), females are more likely to be placed in a faculty after
the first university entry exam, but they are less likely to get
as many chances to take the university entry exam, compared
to males. To this end, females tend to be more rational in
their preference of which faculty to enroll in at the first exam.
This could be due to the perception of gendered roles of
women who will be married out as wives, mothers, and
housewives, roles which do not require more education. If she
is academically inclined, a family can encourage a daughter to
achieve in higher education. If not, investment in education
will be a waste of money and time. Therefore, females tend to
work harder to achieve in the entrance exam.
Furthermore, there is a significant relationship between living
place and gender (c2(4, n=16816)=212.474, p=0.000): we see
that 5.7% of female students and 10.9% of male students are
from villages. This means that there are twice as many male
students from rural regions than female students from rural,
which is consistent with the agricultural economy and family
decision process that favors males over females. What this
indicates is that rural and urban differences that go back to the
early period of the Republic (and even the Ottoman Empire)
are still an issue in entering higher education. In other words,
regional differences, which are mainly based on inadequate
infrastructure and quality education, hamper the equality
of educational opportunity. Rural females are the most
underrepresented group in the higher education system in
Turkey. Like urban women in the early Republic period, urban
women are more likely to enter higher education than rural
women. It could be argued that females from rural are still
considered and employed as unpaid family workers and that
education is not necessary for them.
Family Background Characteristics
With regard to the question of whether there is a difference
in the education level of parents, we can see from Table 2 that
there is a significant difference between genders (p=0.000) in terms of the education level of father and of mother. The
percentage of all male students whose father has primary and
below education level is higher than females whose father has
the same education level: 36.2% of male students and 28.2% of
female students. Moreover, females (29.4%) are more likely to
have a father with a high education level, compared to males
Considering empirical and theoretical arguments, parents
educational level is a crucial indicator of how highly education
is valued. Highly educated parents value education greatly,
encourage and invest in their childrens education, particularly
their daughters (King et al., 1993). Therefore, highly educated
parents expect their children to achieve at least their own
level of education (Stromquist, 1989). Regarding this, since
the late Ottoman period, educated fathers have given more
educational opportunities to their daughters, such as duennas,
private teaching at home from foreign teachers, encouraging
them to read and write, and lastly higher education. Therefore,
in the history of Turkish modernization, educated fathers have
played an important role in the education of their daughters
and in their empowerment process in Kandiyotis (1991a)
words, they are advocators of emancipation of women).
Although there is a significant difference between genders in
terms of the education level of their mother, more than half
of females (51.9%) and male (58.8%) students have a mother
with a low education level. Therefore, their education level is higher than their mothers. This means that for these students,
attendance of tertiary education represents upward social
mobility in relation to their mothers education level.
As we do not want to miss the details, we look at the parents
education level separately. However, we can generally discuss
the familys education background. This classification depends
on Orr et al. (2011)s model and is as follows:
1. Low education background: neither a students father nor
their mother has attained an educational level higher than
2. High education background: either a students father
or their mother or both parents have attained higher
education and above.
Like the educational level of parents, there is a significant
difference between both genders in terms of familys
education background (Table 3), (p=0.000): female students
are more likely to have a family with a high level of education,
compared to males. This table is consistent with the discussion
on the fathers education level, as well. As mentioned before,
highly educated parents are aware of the difficulties in the
intergenerational transmission of family resources in modern/
capitalist society (Treiman, 1970). In this sense, having highly
educated parents is seen as an advantage for females in terms
of the resources they have and how highly their education is
Related to the educational background, the profiles of parents
occupation and employment status given in Table 4 and Table
5 are like that: The difference between the fathers and the
mothers employment status is not noteworthy, considering
the employment rate of women in Turkey. For TUİK (2013),
the employment ratio of women (aged 15 to 64) in 2011 was
27.8%. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that the majority of
students have mothers without paid work (i.e. are housewives).
Moreover, it can be said that females are more likely to have
a father with a high qualified occupation, compared to males.
This is consistent with the findings on the fathers education
First of all, this picture displays the occupational change/transition
experience of Turkey. As Güvenç (1998) states, Turkey has
tried to complete a demographic transition (which Europe
completed in 300 years), including transformations from rural
to urban, from agricultural and industrial service, more technically.
Related to the urbanization and industrialization, which
needed new knowledge and skills, occupations and employment
status have diversified, and education has expanded (i.e.
massification of education) in Turkey. In this sense, urbanization,
the massification of education, occupational varieties and labor market conditions have been effective for fathers
occupational status. Therefore, it could be argued that children
of professionals, middle/low-level directory or office clerks are
more likely to attain higher education, because of the nature
of occupations required in urban settings, the availability
of educational facilities and the affordability of educational
As seen in Table 5, there is a significant difference between
parents employment status by genders, too. In general,
students fathers work for salary or wages or are retired, not
working. The percentage for female students is 37.5% and 28.5%, while for male students it is 33% and 29.1% respectively.
Additionally, the notable occupation groups are an employer
with paid workers and self-employed without any paid workers.
All these imply the fathers job security and economic power,
which will provide educational expenses for their children.
Regular wages (whether as a monthly salary or pension) or
relatively high wages (whether through being self-employed or
an employer with paid workers) give fathers the opportunity to
invest in their childrens education.
As mentioned before, the majority of mothers are housewife
and not working in the formal economy, which is consistent
with the general (un)employment rate of women in Turkey,
which results from inadequate employment policies for
women, and patriarchal ideology, which defines women firstly
as mother, wife and housewife. As discussed before, in the
early Republic period in particular, education was a means for
women to learn how to become a good wife, a good mother,
a good housewife and a good spouse (Abadan-Unat, 1981)
and an important source of labor, particularly for white-collar
occupations for the modern, secure and industrialized new
Turkish Republic (Gündüz-Hoşgör, 1996). In this way, despite
not being a part of the labor market (but a part of the reserve
army of educated labor), educated women with traditional
roles have contributed to reproduce the ideology of the
period (Kemalist ideology), to produce and care for manpower.
With regard to the question of whether there are any
differences between genders in relation to students monthly
income and expenses from parents, we found that there is a
significant difference between all female and male students.
Actually, income from parents can be called pocket money
of students, who are free to choose what to spend it on. On the
other hand, expenses from parents are study-related expenses
directly paid by parents, such as dormitory and faculty fees.
The average income from families of females (293.39 TL) is lower than that of males (320.75 TL), while the average income
of males is higher than the average income overall (307.11 TL).
There is a significant difference between all female and male
students (t(14953.776)=5.890, p=0.000).
This can be associated with parents investment in the daughter
(like fathers in the early Republican period). For example, if
she enrolls in a faculty, such as medical or engineering, that
has higher fees than others, or in a private university that has
higher fees than a state university, expenses will be increased,
and parents will need to invest more in order for her to attain
her educational status (called a gold bracelet). Therefore,
it could be argued that high-income families are more likely
to enable their children, particularly their daughters, to stay
in education longer via economic resources they have and to
invest more in their childrens education.
Educational Background Characteristics
The economic, social and ideological transformation in the
1950s resulted in a demand for more high schools in Turkey.
However, inadequate supply by the state and the ideology
of the period created new types of schools and diversity in
secondary education, including Science and Anatolian high
schools, which opened in the 1950s; vocational high schools
and private schools; regular high schools; and super high
schools, which opened in the 1990s. With Science and Anatolian schools, which have been expected to train students for
higher education and then to become future professionals,
being the apple of the states eye (Gök, 1997), the state has
made a hierarchical arrangement. Other schools, particularly
vocational schools, and regular high schools, have not been a
priority for the state, compared to others.
Firstly, about half of university students are from Anatolian
high schools (48.1%), regular/super high schools (37%) and
vocational high schools (7.1%). The proportion of students
from private schools (4.4%), science high schools (2.5%)
and other schools (7%) are much lower. These numbers are
consistent with the distribution of the students by the schools.
For example, 45.18% for Anatolian high schools, 51.58% for
regular/super high schools, 7% for private schools and 1.84%
for science high schools (Ministry of National Ecutation of
Turkey (Turkish abbreviation, MEB), 2012).
Additionally, there is a significant difference between genders
in terms of the type of high school (c2(5, n=16815)=210.068,
p=0.000). The percentage of female graduates from Anatolian
high schools (53.3%) is higher than that of males (42.9%), while
the percentages of male graduates from vocational schools
(8.8%) and regular/super high schools (40.2%) are higher than
those of females (5.6% and 33.9% respectively).
When we look at the region of secondary school, we see that
the distribution of the region is consistent with the region in
which s/he grew up until the age of 12 and that some types
of high schools only exist in certain regions such as urban
areas. Students from secondary schools in a region with fewer
than 20,000 residents (i.e. villages) are the underrepresented
group in higher education. Additionally, there is a significant
difference between both genders and faculties in terms
of region of secondary school (c2(9, n=6840)=392.343,
p=0.000). In this sense, it can be argued that the young in
urban regions are more likely to access higher education. As
mentioned before, the inadequate infrastructure of education
in rural regions hinders education attainment and equality of
Socioeconomic status (SES) of females family becomes more
important for attendance of females at these schools. In this
way, gender educational inequality is more likely to begin with
the attendance of secondary or high school. In other words,
low-income families preference for favoring sons decreases
the opportunity of schooling for daughters, which results in
reproducing gender inequalities. In our study, as seen above,
females have relatively middle- or high-income families. In
sum, the family socioeconomic background of females is
related to attendance at high school, which affects access to
higher education (as in the late Ottoman and early Republic
Unlike kindergarten, private tutoring courses (as Bray
(1999) stated shadow educational system) are common supplementary forms of education. Until 1970, private tutoring
had worked as a support for school lectures and as a method
of preparation for school entry exams. However, the increased
demand, limited supply and competition for entrance to higher
education with the practice of central exams caused private
teaching institutions to increase in number, especially in urban
and in the West of Turkey (Gök, 2005). However, the main rise
took place after the 1980s because of the higher demand for
higher education. Like kindergarten attendance, females are
more likely to participate in private tutoring courses for longer
which is consistent with the employment status of mother and
SES of family.
This study aims to discuss and compare the profile of women
in higher education in Turkey within the context of the
modernization history of Turkey. Following over 100 years of
expansion in higher education institutions and other social and
economic changes in Turkey, the differences and/or similarities
between the first cohort and a relatively recent one have been
explored thanks to the Eurostudent Survey in 2011.
In the educational system of the Ottoman Empire, educational
facilities were provided to the ruling class, males and urbanites
only. With an agriculture-based economy, the Ottoman Empire
did not need educated subjects. As mentioned before, with
Tanzimat era, debates over modernization, Westernisation,
and progress brought forward structural transformations and
womens participation in the field of education. Accordingly, both education and women gained importance during
Tanzimat, and they became the two most important parts of
the project of a new society. The value attached to women and
education underwent some changes together with the social
transformation. The solution to the relationship between
women and the backwardness of the country made it possible
to offer educational facilities to women. The new schools that
began to open were attempts to enable women to receive an
education. However, urban-rural and class differences affected
womens educational status. The educational facilities provided
by middle and upper-class urban families to their daughters
i.e., duennas, private tutoring and an intellectual environment
made them privileged compared to illiterate lower-class
and rural women. This privilege enabled them to take their
place on the frontline of womens struggle and allowed the
women question to be visible by mentioning class problems
such as education and work. Womens presence in the field of
education and working life in the final decades of the Ottomans
is related to the Westernization and social policies based on
modernization and secularisation.
The Ottoman womens movement played an important role in
providing educational facilities to women through associations
and journals. Educated urban and upper-class women within
the womens movement fought for women to obtain the
right to education. One of its important achievements was
to enable women to be admitted to higher education. When
we look at the students profiles, however, it appears that
female students in higher education were the daughters of
middle and upper-class families. Accordingly, class privileges
were preserved. However, institutions where lower-class girls
received an education also existed such as female art schools,
female institutes and vocational schools, including teachertraining
schools and midwifery schools, etc. These schools
served to provide women with a chance to take their place
in working life after graduation and to achieve upward social
mobility. However, these schools reproduced the gender roles
and thus enabled the woman to be a good wife, mother and
Muslim even if they could not find a place in working life. To
some extent, in contemporary Turkey, the school curriculums
still include similar reproduced patriarchal ideologies against
women (Gümüşoğlu, 2013; Arat, 1994).
As the study has shown, the first students in higher education
were from high socioeconomic status families and urban
areas. The effects of the ideological climate of the period, the
womens movement and struggle, and fathers highly valued
higher education were the main determinants of attainment of
higher education. However, there has been notable educational
inequality among women in terms of regional, SES and urbanrural
disparity. Turning to female students in 2011, according
to the findings they have mostly come from urban areas, high
SES families, better educational backgrounds and have highly
educated fathers with prestige occupations, as well. In other
words, females from rural areas and low SES families are still
underrepresented groups in the higher education system in
contemporary Turkey, as in the Ottoman period. In this sense,
in the last 100 years, despite the expansion of institutions and the socio-economic transformations in Turkey, there has
not been such a great transformation in the profile of women
in higher education in Turkey. It may be the reason that, as
Stromquist (1989) states, for parents from the middle or upper
class, the investment of daughters education is not risky
because of the high possibility of having better opportunities
in the labor market via social networks (social capital as
Bourdieus term). In addition, as higher education is seen as a
tool for reproduction of the privileged classes (Bourdieu et al.,
1977), it is not surprising to see women in higher education
who are mostly from urban and high SES families.
To conclude, the consistency with the rise in the participation
of women in higher education across the world for last
decades (Becker et al., 2010; Bradley, 2000), Turkey, like
other countries, has witnessed remarkable growth in higher
education since 1970, especially of women. This expansion
cannot be understood without considering the economic,
political and social climate of neither Turkey nor the world.
However, in spite of the increase in the population of women,
general profile of women in higher education has not changed
over the time, particularly in Turkey as findings of this
descriptive study. As Karen (2002) states, since inequalities
have persisted, its negative effect on selection process for
accessing universities by gender and class has been required to
explain and discuss. Furthermore, sex-segregation fields (male
vs. female-dominated fields) in the university as another issue
(which is out of the scope of this study and needed further
studies for Turkey) has changed little over time across the
world (Bradley, 2000) because of both gender roles (woman as
primarily mother, wife and housewife) and labour conditions
offering women lower wages and lower prestige occupations
than those for men. Therefore, the changes in higher education
by gender and class would be notable topics for new studies
We would like to thank other Eurostudent national committee
members for sharing the data with us: Prof. Nezih Güven,
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