ITU: A Historic University Making History in Education and Innovation
The dynamic administration of the Istanbul Technical University (ITU) led by Rector Prof. Dr. Muhammed Sahin since August 2008, has placed sustainability in the core of its values. The four major cornerstones of his vision include: entrepreneurship, quality in education, research and most importantly innovation. In order to make these cornerstones solid and sustainable, major projects have been planned and implemented in rapid time.
Dr. Sahin’s vision of redefining innovation in the university has led to many impressive changes that created public value in Turkey and the region. The views of stakeholders and of 130,000 living alumni, 26,000 students and 2,200 academic staff were taken into account during the projects, and initiatives to make positive change. Dr. Sahin has not rested from expressing the importance of innovational approaches and exploring new ways of thinking. Dr. Sahin is a leader that serves as a role model while bringing change to his university. His leadership has raised this awareness of the vital importance of being innovative.
One can group these innovations in two major areas: education and research.
After 239 years of its establishment, the most important educational innovation was implementing 100% English programs, in parallel to the already existing 30% English medium undergraduate programs, in 2010. The results of the Central University Entrance Exam in 2011 clearly demonstrated that there is a strong demand from both the families and the prospective students. Taking such a major step towards a 100% English curriculum was met by resistance and led to public debates with 130,000 living alumni. However, with the eagerness and unbending intent of our leader for innovation, this change was successfully implemented.
After an intensive evaluation process of 2 years, in 2011, 23 undergraduate engineering programs were accredited by the US Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) making ITU the university with the highest number of ABET accredited engineering programs in the world. This success was followed by a surprising thank you note in three separate national newspapers written by ITU alumni who have stated an appreciation towards 100% English programs and the ABET accreditation.
Since ABET is a means of quality assurance of our existing programs, ITU has also acquired the right to become the testing center for Fundamentals of Engineering Test of NCEES (US National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying) which is a way of measuring our output. This exam is the first step in a series of 2 exams taken in order to acquire a license of professional engineering. ITU is the only university to offer this to its senior students and alumni in Turkey. As national professional societies do not offer professional licensing tests to measure learning outcomes in Turkey, ITU has led this initiative and brought this exam for ITU students and graduates to measure how well they have acquired their engineering skills.
Having shifted to a 100% English curriculum, allowing student representation in all executive boards, launching a best student idea competition, building the first Turkish commercial helicopter, unmanned helicopter, electrical van, LPG diesel engine, first pico-satellite, first nano-communications satellite, ITU has set a new benchmark in innovative approaches nationally and regionally.
Student Best Idea
Alongside excellence in education, ITU is investing in the future of our country by focusing on student innovation. The ARICEKIRDEK, student best idea competition, attracted 500 different student projects from Turkey in its first year of implementation, 2012 (1st prize 60,000 USD, 2nd prize 30,000 USD, and 3rd prize 15,000 USD). The winners will be offered office space in ITU’s Technopark for 12 months. Winners will be mentored professionally towards transforming their idea into a business venture. ITU is investing in and will impact Turkey’s future innovators since this competition is open to every university student. The funding for this competition will be sustainable through time as it has been created from an endowment of our alumni. Aside from the idea competition, ITU student-led projects including ITU Solar boat, solar car, hydrogen boat, microsatellite are continually annually funded.
Digital Base of Turkey
ITU invited major national and international IT companies (under Informatics Industry Association – TUBISAD) to relocate their R&D centers to ITU’s campus in 2010. The IT market in Turkey is worth approximately 30 billion USD. They will be moving into a 45 Million USD building of 60,000m2. Never has any country gathered rival companies in the IT sector working on the same innovations under one roof; however, ITU’s input as a higher education institution of bright students, re-known faculty and excellent infrastructure has managed to succeed in implementing this major breakthrough. With the decision of the University Board of Directors, ITU’s School of Informatics and Computer will be housed in this digital base of Turkey where synergy will be created for the student, faculty and industry to work together to impact the region.
Following on the model of the IT companies, companies working in the energy sector, grouped under the Young Businessmen Association of Turkey (TUGIAD) have created the Energy Technopark of ITU which is the sole energy technopark in Turkey. A new facility of 5000m2 with a 5 million USD budget is allocated on our main campus.
ITU Technopark is the leader in Turkey with 84 R&D firms (12 international) 30,000m2 space and 2,000 R&D personnel. Its diversity and reach make it a highly attractive partner for technology companies in a wide range of industries. ITU has a student body of 26,000 and nearly 2,200 members of academic staff. With the new buildings of 45 million USD investment and 70,000m2 space, ITU strives to continue this leading position.
As a result of these innovations in the last 3 years, we can confidently and without hesitation state that ITU is transforming the innovation link of its DNA to prepare the leading engineers of the future, in the hope that an innovative approach will remain to dominate the decision-making and creation process of every student in their future lives.