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Galatasaray University boasts a heritage dating back more than 500 years. Its history began with the construction of the Palace School on the hills of Galata in 1481.
The "Mekteb-i Sultani" (Sultan's School) was an Ottoman state institution which boasted a high standard of education at a time when no modern higher education institutions existed. Then in 1874, Safvet Pasha, minister of education during the period of the First Constitution, ordered the establishment of the "Turuk-u Muabir" School as part of the "Mekteb-i Sultani". This school was equivalent to a combination of law and literature school , and the "Ecole des Ponts et Chaussés" in France. It is assumed that the school ceased functioning after 1881 as no documents relatıng to "Darulfünün-i Sultani" have been found to date beyond that year.
More than a century later, Turkish and French authorities supported a project prepared by the University Committee of the Galatasaray Lycée alumnae organization. Following June 1991 negotiations between Turkish President Turgut Özal and French President François Mitterand, Turkish and French committees signed the universıty's charter on 6 December 1991. Subsequently, in a ceremony held at Galatasaray Lycée on 14 April 1992, the two presidents presided over the signing of the university's charter by Roland Dumas and Hikmet Çetin, their countries' respective ministers of foreign affairs. Established thus by international contract with the cooperation of the two presidents, Galatasaray University is Turkey's first and only francophone institution of higher education. The international agreement was ratified by Turkish Council of Ministers Decree Number 92/2991 of 4 May 1992. It was Law Number 3993 of 1 June 1994, however, that was responsible for the transformation of Galatasaray Education and Training Institution (GETI) into the entity that is today Galatasaray University.
Galatasaray University bears the distinction of being the first university founded by international agreement between France and Turkey. Although neither a private nor foundation university, and functioning under Turkish Higher Education regulations, it differs from all other universities through the unique nature of its establishment. Since 1993, protocols for the university's cooperation with 38 French higher education institutions have been signed. This cooperation is implemented through exchanges of both students and teaching staff. The 14 April 1992 agreement provided for a "State Sciences College" and "Engineering and Technology College." Law Number 3993 of 1 June 1994 replaced these colleges with the Faculty of Law, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Faculty of Communication, Faculty of Science and Letters, and Faculty of Engineering and Technology. Additionally, a Social Sciences Institute and an Institute of Sciences, offering post-graduate programs with master's and doctoral degrees, are attached to the office of the rector. The European Research and Documentation Center and the Strategic Research Center are also attached to the same office.