Istanbul University Forestry Faculty and Education Reforms


Seçil Yurdakul and Bilge Akgün[1]


Istanbul University is a contemporary higher education institution and a pioneer in forestry education. The Forestry Faculty is one of the 17 Faculties that were established in the constitution of Istanbul University. It currently contains three departments: Forestry Engineering, Forest Products Engineering and Landscape Architecture. There are four established programs at Junior College Level. In this paper, the history of Istanbul University, the Forestry Faculty and its education system are explained, particularly as regards the Forestry Engineering Department.

Our education system is shaped by the characteristics of the country’s forestry sector, which is centrally administered by the state. Nearly all our forests are in government ownership. In addition to this, forestry engineers are the only technical personnel. The biggest difference between Turkey’s forestry sector and those of developed countries concerns social expectations. In Turkey, the main expectations concern food and a source of livelihood, not service production like in developed countries.

As a developing country, Turkey has plans to modernize her forestry system. The Forestry Faculty of Istanbul University plays an important role in this modernization by introducing and adapting major changes in the area. Turkey’s education policies and her forestry requirements, as well as developed countries’ forestry systems, have shaped the modernization. The paper looks at reforms that have been made at the University to improve the forestry education system and facilitate modernization of the sector.

1. Introduction

Related to the increment of appreciating to nature and forests, the mission of forestry engineering is expanded. The importance of the forests increases day by day since it plays an effective role on environmental balance, and is valuable living creatures for society interms of providing employment and recreation opportunities. Additionally, forests take an important place in cultural structure of Turkey.

The standards of forestry education increase parallel to the place of forests in the country. The most privileged instrument, which is used to widen the effectiveness of forestry engineers on technical, social and biological subjects, is professional forestry education. Certainly, universities give best-qualified forestry education.

2. Historical Development of Forestry Education in Turkey

In Turkey, forestry education was started by Forestry School, which was established on November 17, 1857 by a French forester. The aim of establishment of this school was to put the forestry Ottoman in order. The school had a course format. Then, the education period was expended to two years by forming “Forestry School Bylaw”. Later, in 1880s Forestry School was united with Mining School and the education was raised to four years.

Afterwards, the forestry education institution was connected to Halkalý Agriculture School but a problem occurred in the involvement of forestry and agriculture education. Thus, the institution’s name was changed to “Halkalý Agriculture And Forestry School” and the education of these two branches was separated.

By 1908, the year of declaration of Constitutional Monarch, the deficiency in forestry education standards was realized, and then in1910, “Forestry High School” was established.

The effect of declaration of Republic was seen on forestry education like a lot of various branches. To reform the forestry education some European forestry scientists were invited Turkey. Thus, the “Forestry High School” was transformed into an independent institution, and began to be directed by a rectorship. Forestry High School was turned into faculty format, and connected to Ankara High Agriculture Institution in 1934. Then, in 1948 “Universities Law” was taken effect. Hence, Forestry Faculty was connected to Istanbul University and its development and activities expanded.

In 1963, another Forestry Faculty was established in Turkey. Today, there are 9 forestry faculties in our country.

There was only Department of Forestry Engineering in Istanbul University by 1982. Department of Forest Products Engineering had been established in 1982 and Department of Landscape Architecture in 1985

Moreover, in 2001 “Forestry Technical School” as a junior college was established by Istanbul University. Purpose of the establishment of the technical school was to meet the needs of qualified technicians of forest service.

3. Administrative and Academic Structure of Istanbul University, Forestry Faculty

Dean, Faculty Committee, and Forestry Administration Committee put the administrative and financial duties in order. Furthermore, General Academic Committee, Faculty Consultation Committee and Department Committees work as inquiry units.

Dean is the director of the faculty at sensor. Also, he/she is working connected to the rector. The main duties of dean are; to coordinate all the units of faculty, control the departments, examine the general situation of the faculty attending about appropriation and personnel and also transforming rector about all of these. High Instruction Law can give some other duties to dean.

Faculty Committee consists of chosen three professors, two associate professors and one assistant professor. Faculty Committee is an academic group. The duties of this committee are; to work about education, scientific research, and publications of faculty and to choose the members of Faculty Administration Committee. Also, this committee is obligated to do the duties that are given by High Instruction Law.

Faculty Administration Committee consists of three professors, two associate professors, and one assistant professor who are chosen by Faculty Committee. This committee works on administrative subjects to help dean.

On the other hand, General Academic Committee, Faculty Consultation Committee and Department Committees work as consultant units.

When we look at the academic structure of faculty, we see that there are 19 subdivisions of major scientific field and disciplines at Istanbul University Forestry Faculty. The academic personnel include; 39 professors, 10 associate professors, 22 assistant professors, 60 Research Assistant, and 4specialists.

4. Reorganisation Activities

To reach the aims of forestry, the need of reforming forestry education was evaluated. The main reasons are;

a) To evolve specializations in forestry sector
b) To train forestry engineers in accordance with future needs.
c) To reach global standards at scientific studies.

While forming the reorganization structure some stakeholders participated to resolution committee. These stakeholders were:

a) Representatives of Students
b) Representatives of Research Assistants
c) Chambers of Forest Engineers and Other Professions which are related with Forestry
d) Managers of Departments, which are working in Forestry Service.

The most important contribution of these stakeholders is, giving answer to “How could be forest engineers educated?” question. Besides, questionnaires were applied to managers of forestry service. The reorganization process was begun as a result of all meetings.

At the first step of this process, the courses related with the disciplinary of service production, took place in the curriculum. The education program divided into branches. The first part, which consists of three years, has a course program of main forestry and engineering disciplinary education and the second part, one-year program, intends training students in scientific branches of forestry. These branches are stipulated to be named as:

- Cultivating Plants and Protection
- Wildlife
- Protection of Soil and Water Resources
- Forestry Enterprising.

Thus, by forming new regulation, which is shaped by the decisions, the first step of the four-year period was started. These main arrangements are transformed to education system. These are explained below.

By the reforms, which are done and will be decided to do the forestry education of our country, will reach to developed countries’ level. While trying to reach this level, the situation of general state and forestry of our country will be considered.

4.1. First Phase of Reorganization Applications in Undergraduate Education

The education period for undergraduate programs is complicated in 4 years. One school year consists of two semesters. Some new applications like; alternative lessons, bell curve system in grading, summer school, double major, and additional program have been applying since the school year of 1998. These new applications ant the fundemantel applications of Forestry Faculty like excursions and internship are explained below.

Curriculum: The curriculum consists of compulsory and optional lessons. Compulsory lessons are the lessons that must be taken by the students. Optional lessons are those that students can choose among the suggested courses.

In education plan, amount of optional lessons chosen by a student does not become more than 40% of total credit required for graduation. The optional lessons can be related to both forestry and other general subjects. Moreover, a student can take some courses from the other faculties of Istanbul University except for the compulsory and optional lessons. Students can choose an optional lesson group at the end of sophomore year.

On the other hand, Faculty Committee has decided seminars to be held to improve the scientific search ability of students.

When the curriculum of Forest Engineering department is examined, including seminars and occupational foreign language 78 lessons and 190 credits are taught to the students as compulsory lessons in the whole education period. These are composed of theoretical and practice parts.

Students must choose one of these groups according to their average. Also, the quato of a group is limited to 35% of the classroom population of Forestry Engineering Department. Thus, the students are placed to groups according to their achievement level. Students begin to take optional lessons at junior level.

Examinations: In one half period, at least one midterm examination and final examination must be done according to Istanbul University Forestry Faculty Undergraduate Education and Examination Regulations. Faculty Committee determines the number of midterm examinations. Final examinations are done separately for each course at the end of the all semesters. Final Course Grade of a student is amount of 40% of midterm and 60% final examination. The achievement grade is calculated by using “Relative Evaluation System”. In this system, students’ achievement grade is found related to the achievement level of class and student’s grade’s arithmetic mean and statistical distributions are calculated in Relative Evaluation System. The result is transformed to letteral value.

Weighted General Grade Average for all the students is calculated at the end of the education period. The achievement mark of all the lessons is calculated to compose this result.

This grade system has being applied since the old system caused difficulties for the students who want to continue education at a foreign county’s university. This grading system enables our faculty’s students to go to graduate schools in abroad.

Internship: Internship is compulsory for graduation. The aim of this application is; to encourage the students to work in public or private sectors related with his or her major. Thus, the students get the ability to do his/her job practice and experience.

Internship must be done two times at the education period, after the fourth and sixth semesters in the summer holiday. Students from forestry engineering department are trained at forestry enterprises for requirement undergone this training program at forestry enterprises. But now on, they can do applied working at Istanbul University Forestry Faculty, public and private institutions related with the forestry education in our country or abroad.

Thesis: Preparing thesis is another requirement for graduation. The aim of thesis is to improve the students’ research ability and determine something suitable to scientific criterion.

The general subject and the titles of the thesis according their theme is determined by Faculty Committee. These are announced to the students. Students can take the thesis study from these subjects. The subject of the thesis can be based on observation, experiment or literature research.

Excursion: Excursion is seen as an important part of forestry education at Istanbul University, Forestry Faculty. The excursions are held at the end of four-year education period for each department. Students go to a region with a lot of lecturer where the forestry activities are intensively carried out, In these excursions the students find opportunity to discuss and examine the forestry activities with forestry sector staff. Hence, students learn a lot of thing about their job from the colleagues and lecturers.

Summer School: Summer school program is applied in summer holiday period. Thus, students can utilize from the academic opportunities of University. The main advantages of this new application for students can be declared as follows; students from other universities can participate to Istanbul University Forestry Faculty lessons, the lecturers from other universities can teach lessons, the students who failed from a course or courses have the opportunity to take this or these courses again, some students can take the lessons of the following year. Furthermore, the students of forestry faculty can participate the other faculties’ summer school program as well. The period of summer school is composed of 8 weeks. But for each course the credit hours are equal to the sum of two semesters’ course credit hours.

Additional Program (Minor): This Program has been applied for two years. The aim of this program is to give opportunity to the students who are successful at their undergraduate program and want to learn about a related branch. The additional program must include at least 18 credits. The earliest time to begin to additional program is the beginning of third semester of the undergraduate program and the latest is the sixth semester. The additional program doesn’t affect graduation time of students from undergraduate program. A different transcript and graduation certificate is arranged to the student who is registered to this program. For the graduation from the additional program, both the student must graduate from the main undergraduate program and have at least average grade of 2 from additional program. The students take diploma for their main major program and certificate for additional program (minor).

Double Major: The aim of this system is to give the opportunity to very successful students to graduate from two different undergraduate programs. Double major system is composed of at least 36 credits. Earliest time is the beginning of third semester of the main undergraduate program and the latest time is the beginning of fifth semester for a student can begin to second major. The students deserve to begin to the program by the provision of having 3.00 average grade and being successful from all of the lessons, which were taken by the student till the reference semester. The provision for graduation is to have been graduated from the main undergraduate program and having average grade of 2 from the second major. After graduation students receive two diplomas.

4.2. Forestry Technical School

There are four programs in technical school. These are Cellulose & Paper Techniques Program, Irrigation Techniques Program, Wood Work Program, and Game and Wildlife Program. This school is established by the approval of Istanbul University Senate on 10.08.2000. The main aim of this school is to meet the demand of qualified technicians of forestry service. Thus, the employment problem of young population will be solved. This technical school has an important mission for our forestry sector to reach the global trends. The content of the programs are formed as a result of investigation of similar technical schools in abroad and the discussions of lecturers and also the necessities of the sector in the country.

In the education program, theoretical knowledge is taught in the first year, the projects and lessons in the second year. After graduation, students work in related firms.

4.3. Feedback and Second Phase of Reorganization Process

At the end of four year and after the first graduation, a commission whose duty is feedback, examined the process. As a result of investigations, the second step of reorganization which we are in was started. The activities that have been done in this phase is listed below;

a) To eliminate problems about courses’ hours and contents

b) To organize the classrooms and laboratories

c) To analyze the difficulties regarding regulations which are related with transition of students from technical school to undergraduate programs

d) To analyze the problems which come out the selection of double major and additional program because of the dense of the courses

e) To eliminate regulation problems about graduation.

5. Accreditation in Istanbul University Forestry Faculty

Accreditation activities have been carrying on in our faculty. There isn’t an accreditation institute regarding forestry education in our country. To be a candidate to accreditation of Forestry Engineering department, Forestry Faculty, started reorganization activities according to SAF (Society of American Foresters) criteria.

As a first step, we began to reorganize our education system according to Regulation of Academic Assessment and Quality Comparison in Higher Education Institutions. We are working to form an inside-institution assessment system as a preparation for accreditation. The Academic Assessment and Quality Comparison Commission apply this assessment. Essentially the assessment is about;

a) The statistical data, use of as indicator of quality and quantity
b) The subjects about regulating the program of courses
c) The content of courses and achievement level of the students
d) The guidance and opportunities which are offered to students
e) The learning opportunities
f) The precautions taken regarding productive usage of resources
g) The precautions taken regarding guarantee and increase of quality.

According to the regulations that were published in the Official Paper, and SAF criteria; faculty is at pre-assessment level. We need to apply SAF criteria because the regulation, which is currently in practice, has general dimensions and doesn’t carry forestry education characteristics.

Like the general opinion of forestry sector “thinking global applying regional”, forestry education will be shaped when the accreditation period is started and when the education is shaped through the accreditation objectives of SAF. Thus, with the modern structure, long-period aggregation and qualified academic staff, forestry education quality will reach to global standards.

6. Conclusion

As a developing country, Turkey has plans to modernize its forestry. Forestry Faculty of Istanbul University has an important role in this modernization by introducing and adapting major changes in the area. Turkey's education policies and her forestry requirements, as well as developed countries' forestry systems, have shaped the modernization. Turkish forestry will reach the global trends as well as her targets by the modernization activities.

In conclusion, five-year long changes and modernizations in the Turkish forestry affects the forestry education positively and gives hopes to every individual for future and for Turkish forestry.


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[1] Research Assistant and Graduate Student, Department of Forestry Policy and Administration, Faculty of Forestry, Istanbul University, Turkey. Email: