“The aim is to host interdisciplinary backgrounds and students from different areas all together”
Industry Report: European Film Schools
Andreas Treske and Emel Ozdora-Aksak • Assistant Professors, Bilkent University
Our chat revolved around the main opportunities offered to prospective students by the Department of Communication and Design of Bilkent University
Cineuropa talked to assistant professors Andreas Treske and Emel Ozdora-Aksak, faculty members of Ankara-based Bilkent University's Department of Communication and Design. The Turkish educational institution is part of both GEECT (European Grouping of Film and Television Schools) and CILECT (International Association of Film and Television Schools).
Cineuropa: When was the department established?
Andreas Treske (AT): The Department of Communication and Design of Bilkent University was founded in 1998. It was the first department of its kind in Turkey, so we were born under the growing influence of communication and design teaching of the late 1990s.
How many study programmes do you offer?
AT: At the moment, three; a four-year BA in Communication and Design, an MA in Media and Visual Studies, which features a more academic-oriented – and PhD-oriented – programme; and finally, an MFA in Media Design, offering an emphasis on artistic research and development.
What about the balance between theoretical and practical subjects?
AT: We strive to adopt a 50/50 approach, combining research and project-based practical education. We have two main teaching pillars; one focuses on media studies, whilst the other centres on design and media production.
Are all of these programmes taught in English?
AT: Yes, the whole university teaches in English. But if you come as a foreign student, you're also required to take Turkish-language classes.
How should students prepare for the admission exams?
AT: Turkish BA students are admitted through the local state exam and they express their preferences on what universities to attend. International students need to submit a separate application and prove their knowledge of English. For the MA programmes, however, the selection process is a bit more “personal”.
Emel Ozdora-Aksak (EOA): Yes, we look for students with different backgrounds – for example, communication, business, literature or psychology – and we want to understand what they're willing to study and with which faculty members. They also need to present their own research ideas. Then, we interview them with a committee formed of six or seven professors, during which we read their motivation statement, their English writing samples, their three academic references and, based on those documents, we make informed decisions as to whom to admit in our programme. We accept around ten students each year.
AT: For the MFA, students are also required to submit a portfolio, which we evaluate prior to the interview – sometimes our questions delve into the portfolio contents, sometimes we focus more on assessing the student's talent. The aim is to host interdisciplinary backgrounds and students from different areas all together.
How do students fund their education?
AT: Our university is a non-profit foundation entity. It's the first university of its kind in Turkey and is partly funded by a consortium. Over 43% of the students gain a scholarship following the entrance exam. Undergrads are usually Turkish students – normally, 60 out of 70 students benefit from a scholarship. 80% of the post-graduate students study tuition-free and some get a monthly allowance, and which surely makes it attractive. Moreover, we offer housing options on campus.
How are you adapting your teaching owing to the current circumstances?
EOA: Following the outbreak in March 2020, Turkey went into lockdown. In one week, we had to adapt all of our teaching to an online environment. I guess every university in the world had to go through a similar crisis. In the fall semester, we tried to adopt a hybrid approach; we were allowing students to choose between attending courses on campus or remotely on Zoom. However, this method did not prove to be very useful, because many had to use public transportation to reach the campus or were living with parents or grandparents, so they were not willing to take the risk. So we ended up mostly talking to empty chairs. In the spring semester, starting from February 2021, we moved to online teaching with studio courses being taught face-to-face and in small groups, normally consisting of up to 12 students.
Anything else you'd like to tell to your prospective students?
AT: We are one of Turkey and Ankara's top universities. We offer an international study environment with hi-tech facilities, and act on the border between scientific research and applied media practice. We have faculty members involved in Facebook and social media research, others working on EU projects, and so on... What you can learn here are not just the practical aspects of media production, you can also familiarise yourself with top-notch scientific work on media as well as top European research in many disciplines.
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