Despite the conditions of war including external threats of invasion by regime forces, arbitrary air strikes towards a defenceless territory and the confusion of inner struggles, there are several higher education institutions in the liberated territories north west of Syria. These are buttressed by plentiful schools of smaller size educating Syrian children towards their secondary degree so that they can one day enrol in higher education. To provide an overview: the territories controlled by the Syrian opposition wholly cover the Idlib Governorate in addition to a great part of the north and western districts of Aleppo (Jabal Saman, Azaz, Afrin and Jarablus) and some square miles of territory from western Latakia and northern Hama; in sum an area of circa 10 000 sq km. In parallel to the versatile military-factional landscape, there are two major rivalling governments in these territories; the Syrian Interim Government and the Syrian Salvation Government. The first was formed on 18th March 2013 on behalf of the Syrian National Coalition which aims for a pluralistic, secular democratic state in Syria. It is headquartered in Turkey and asserts most of its influence in the territories of northern Aleppo which were taken in coordination with Turkey during the last two years. The latter was established on 2nd November 2017 emerging from the Syrian General Conference which opts for an Islamic state in Syria whose legislature is based upon Shariah law.
There are 15 higher education institutions in the liberated territories of Syria; ten of them private and five public. Yet they have further differences in affiliation and background, ranging from the Ebla Private University authorised by the Syrian Arab Republic to universities divided between the Interim and Salvation Governments. In addition to universities, there are also separate institutions like the Afaq Academy for Political Sciences in Azaz.
From April 2017 on, the newly established independent Higher Education Council in Idlib had started to bring the private universities under its umbrella of authorisation. Thenceforward, seven private universities have joined the Higher Education Council (now part of the Salvation Government) in addition to the public Idlib and An-Nahda universities. Notwithstanding, they still resume their individual connections and character. For instance, Oxford Private University is a branch of the mother institution in Aden, although in Syria it is subordinated to the Higher Education Council.
In the following I will provide some information on these universities including the faculties they comprise, tuition fees, foundation and affiliation. Thereby I will also touch on general organisational developments, characteristics and conditions of education in Syria.
TABLE OF CONTENT
I. Table of Universities
II. Presentation of the universities
a- Public universities
b- Private universities
III. Challenges and Criticism
IV. Related posts
I. Table of Universities
Below is a table of the universities in free Syria, along their location and foundation date.
|Free Aleppo University,||Bashqatin (Aleppo)||1957 / 2015||public, IG|
|Idlib University,||Idlib City||2009 / 2015||public, SG|
|International Sham University,||Azaz (Aleppo)||2016||public|
|Harran University (Branch)||Al-Bab (Aleppo)||2018||public, TR|
|An-Nahda University||Dana (Idlib)||2018||public, SG|
|Emergency Medicine Faculty||Dana (Idlib)||2015||private, SG|
|Oxford Private University||Sarmada (Idlib), Atarib (Aleppo)||2015||private, SG|
|Mari Private University||Saraqib (Idlib)||2015||private, SG|
|Rome Private University||Sarmada (Idlib)||2016||private, SG|
|Az-Zahra Charitable University||Antep-Jarablus (Aleppo)||2014||private, SG|
|Al-Hayat University||?||?||private, SG|
|International Rescue University||Maarrat An-Numan (Idlib)||2017||private, SG|
|Ebla Private University||Saraqib (Idlib)||2008||private,SAR|
|Başakşehir Academy||Al-Bab (Aleppo)||2017||private|
SG= Salvation Government; IG= Interim Government; SAR= Syrian Arab Republic; TR= Turkey
II. Presentation of the universities
a- Public universities
They are characterised by low tuition fees and non-profit character, although some private universities also claim this value.
Free University of Aleppo
It was established in late 2015 by ex-cadres of the Aleppo University which was originally founded in 1957 but left under regime control following the uprising. Claiming to uphold the traditions of the university, it is the result of a cooperative project between the National Free Congress (at-tajammuʿ al-watani al-hurr), an extensive organ of the National Alliance, and the Council of Syrian Academics. It is considered a part of the Interim Government.
The university comprises the five faculties for Data Engineering, Computer Engineering, Economics, Pedagogy and Islamic Sciences. There have been further specialised institutions scattered around the liberated territories whereby some were closed after the regime’s seizure of rural Damascus for instance. In total, the university operates 17 faculties and facilities for more than 400 students.
The Higher Education Council of the Salvation Government released a decree in 2017 wherein they declared the Free Aleppo University to be under the authority of the council while the intra-universitary elections would be done independently. Yet the university management opposed the decree, leading to the temporary closure of the university. After the incidence, the university was compelled to relocate its headquarter in Dana (rural northern Idlib) to Bashqatin in rural west Aleppo. Meanwhile the office of the Interim Government’s Higher Education Ministry in Maarrat An-Numan had also been closed down. Fortunately yet a settlement was reached after a meeting between the the university and the Higher Education Council initiated by the local council of Maarrat An-Numan, whereby the two universities of Aleppo and Idlib established a common board to coordinate student matriculation.
Founded in 2015 by the Army of Conquest after the city’s seizure in May upon the previous basis already established in 2005/2009 (?). Initially a branch of Aleppo University, the university was separated from the mother structure two years later additionally gaining the campus in Maarrat An-Numan. The Free Aleppo University was left with the campuses in Atarib, Ayn Jārah and Bashqātīn. Along the lines of this separation, the university went into the administration of the Salvation Government; previously it was affiliated with the Interim Government.
The university has 173 academic staff and 213 administrative workers who serve the 10.000 students, among them 172 postgraduates. As of January 2019, 1800 people have graduated from Idlib University which encompasses 14 faculties and 6 further facilities. Admission is unrestricted except for the faculties of Medicine, Dentistry and Data Engineering. Just as Aleppo University, tuition fees do not exceed $200 due it being a public university
International Sham University
It was founded near the town of Azaz in rural Aleppo via a cooperation between the Turkish nongovernmental organisation IHH and the Syrian Commission for Higher Education, a congregation of 60 academicians formed in May 2015 which is also responsible for the university’s administration. Officially it is not subjugated to the Interim Government although they maintain close contact. Established in March 2016, the university started the year with circa 350 students. Although 750 people had enrolled at the university, a great part of them were not able to attend due to road closures. The teaching cadre thereby encompasses eight doctors.
The university operates four faculties: Engineering, Shariah and Law, Political Sciences and Faculty for Administration and Economy. The Engineering Faculty is further divided into the four areas Data Engineering, Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Engineering Physics. In late 2017 the university opened an Education and Shariah Department for women.
To apply, prospective students must have completed secondary school. Tuition fees are 50$ for every term, totalling 150$ in a year as the studies are divided into three terms to accelerate the graduation of qualified personal urgently needed for the region. Meanwhile the university provides a monthly support of 100 TL along free housing and daily meal. Married students are granted an additional 50 TL.
Harran University (Al-Bab Branch)
It came to existence when the Turkish Harran University of Urfa founded a branch in Al-Bab in 2018; two years after the region was taken over during the Euphrate’s Shield Operation. Cooperating with local councils, it has planed to cover six fields: architecture, electrics and machines and agricultural sciences for the Faculty of Engineering and maths, physics and chemistry for the Science-Literature Faculty. The instruction language is Arabic but also includes English and Turkish for higher degrees. Students must pass the Turkish Higher Education Exams (YÖS) to study in the university, which is possible in the many high schools operating throughout rural northern Aleppo.
A freshly established public university which started operation in the academic year of 2018-2019. Located in rural Idlib (Dana) it is the only public university accredited by the Salvation Government in addition to the University of Idlib. The university operates within the buildings left from Aleppo University after its forced transfer to rural Aleppo.
b- Private universities
They may be classified into three parts: those authorised by the Salvation Government (7) of whom the Al-Hayat and Rome universities are not included here as I could not find much information concerning them; the Ebla University authorised by the regime; and thirdly the remaining two independent private universities Başakşehir Academy recognised by the Jordanian Yarmouk University and the International Rescue University which lacks the Salvation Government’s authorisation.
Az-Zahra Charitable University
Founded towards the end of 2014 it provides higher education for Syrian secondary graduates residing in Turkey. Located in the southern Turkish city of Antep, it recognises secondary degrees from the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as the Interim Government and others. Presently the university accommodates approximately 100 students. In due course it has opened a branch in Jarablus. It provides annual scholarships for certain groups like Huffaz, children of martyrs and prisoners, students excelling in their degree or those commended by teachers for their virtue.
At the beginning the university adopted the curriculum of Aleppo University with some modification, comprising the fields Islamic Studies, Pedagogy, Economy and Administration and Data Engineering. Today it has extended its scope to include the departments for Languages (mainly English), Media, a separate department for Arabic and the addition of Political Sciences to the Department of Economy and Administration.
Oxford Private University
Following its announcement in the southern Turkish city of Antep in late 2015, the university was established in the Turkish-Syrian border town of Sitt Atikah in the Harim District of Idlib Governorate. This choice largely came for security reasons, as it is far from the regime’s operational zone. An extension of the Yemeni Oxford University for Science and Technology (2014), it is officially authorised by the Yemeni Education Ministry according its personal statement. The mother university centred in Aden has other detachments in Turkey and Saudi-Arabia. Being recognised by the Union of Arabic Universities and UNESCO, the university enjoys great esteem – some consider it the first internationally recognised university in free Syria.
In contrast, some news outlets defy these claims citing the statement of the deputy Higher Education Minister of the Interim Government who disputed the university’s recognition by the mother institution in Yemen. In due course the Interim Government had declined the request for authorisation, additionally explaining that the university had not fulfilled three years of existence; the minimum duration conditioned by the Interim Government for authorisation. Yet the director of Oxford University, Muhyiddin Bannānah (a doctoral graduate of Geotechnology from Moscow in 1975) who had previously served as the Education Minister in the Interim Government defied the claim. At any rate, Oxford University is presently a part of the Salvation Government’s Higher Education Council.
The university whose Syrian headquarters lie in Idlib City and Atarib (rural Aleppo) requires yearly tuition fees of $950 for conventional and $500 for open plan education. It may accommodate 500 to 1000 students though as of 2017 there were 300.
Mari Private University
Private university established in the southern Turkish city of Mersin in 2015 that operates a branch in Saraqib (Idlib) since 2016. It is lead by Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi and Saudi-Arabian academics. It is considered a branch of the Sudanese National Ribat University in Khartoum. The university has contacts and treaties with universities across Saudi-Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and Libya in addition to being authorised by UNESCO and the Turkish Foreign and Higher Education Ministry. It has a particular relationship with the Nation University of Science and Technology in Istanbul, which is an affiliate of the Yemeni Oxford University.
The university has two specialisations, first the scientific part comprising the Faculty of Pharmaceutics composed of Medical Pharmacy and Pharmacy in addition to the faculties of Engineering, Computer Science and Economics and Business Administration. The second part includes humanities as the three faculties of Islamic Sciences, Languages and Media. The scope of the Language faculty includes French language and literature.
The tuition fees are ranging from annual $1500 to $4500 dollars in addition to the $200 registration fee, though there is some reduction for the Saraqib branch. In the first educational year, fees were reduced by half; making $1800 for Dentistry and $500 for the remaining faculties. The university provides some scholarships for students who were compelled to interrupt their studies due to financial hardship or humanitarian conditions.
Emergency Medicine Faculty (Academy of Health Sciences)
Founded in the town of Dana in rural Idlib in a cooperation between the Syrian Expatriate Medical Association and the Foundation Sheikh Thani Ibn Abdullah for Humanitarian Services (RAF) the faculty started education towards the end of 2015 with 60 students. The studies stretch for two years and are composed of three phases, first the students are taught theory, then they begin practice within the building of the academy and finally they gather practical experience in hospitals and assistance groups. To maintain education quality, there are exams on theory as well as practice every month and study term. A student talking to “Souriyetna Press” commends the education standard of the academy, prising it over his experiences in a medical facility in pre-uprising Hama.
The faculty also cooperates with Syrian Civil Defence and local councils. Among its further activities are short public courses for the community, courses on birth and curing wounds and urgency simulations to clear the path for ambulances and evacuate damaged buildings.
Apparently it merged into the Academy of Health Sciences which is headquartered in Atimmah (rural Idlib) and operating since 2011.
A private university founded in 2016 in Istanbul and considered a branch of the University of Malaysia. Along the opening of a branch the southern Turkish city of Antep it also opened a branch in rural north Homs in 2017. Today it is authorised by the Higher Education Council of the SG. The establishment came after an agreement with the Scholars of Homs Council which had been operating a Shariah Faculty in the region. The council is composed of 171 members lead by Sheikh Abdulaziz Bukur. The university’s diplomas are recognised in Malaysia and Yemen, though not in Turkey. They have also contracted an agreement with the University of East London in July 2017. In line with the break from the Turkish education apparatus, there is no need to absolve the YÖS exams.
The university used to operate faculties and facilities in Talbiseh, Rastan and Houla direct on behalf by the Free University of Aleppo. After the regime’s seizure of northern Homs, the university apparently relocated its buildings to Idlib Governorate. In April 2018, it exempted those displaced from Eastern Ghouta from the tuition fees for its Shariah Faculty in Kafr Takharim. Similar exemptions were given by other institutions like the University of Idlib.
International Rescue University
The university was founded in 2017 in the city of Maarrat An-Numan, later extending to include a branch in Ariha. It encompasses 27 faculties and facilities including its different branches and departments. It had started with three faculties (General Health, Information Science, Economy and Administration) and 16 facilities. The university was authorised both by the Interim and the Salvation Government. Tuition fees are ranging from $400 to $900 dollars. Students are accepted through a comparison procedure after providing a secondary certificate from 2011 or later.
In February 2019 the university released a statement notifying its students of the university’s closure. Reportedly this came after the decision of the Salvation Government’s Higher Education Council to shut it down. As of now the outcome is not clear.
Established in 2017 in the town of Al-Bab northern Aleppo, it is recognised by the Jordanian Yarmouk University, yet high tuition fees ($1050 to $1800 per year) are a requisite to study. The academy is destined for Arabic Language and Islamic Sciences in addition to Journalism, thus it includes Islamic Shariah, Usul Ad-Din, Islamic Economics, History and Civilisation, Islamic Pedagogy, Dawah and Islamic Media, Arabic Language and Literature.
Private university in the town of Ebla, Idlib Governorate, near the antique archaeological site of the same name, founded in 2004. Being authorised by the Syrian Arab Republic, it is the sole such university in the liberated territories of Syria. Despite this fact, the institution is given the right to participate in the Higher Education Council and vote as well as candidate in the election of its director. Founded in 2008, the university has 4180 students presently along 1200 graduates in the past. It operates the five faculties of Engineering, Pharmacy, Administrative Sciences, Political Sciences and Humanities and Language.
III. Challenges and Criticism
Beside the scarcity of resources and financial means, the greatest challenge encountering the university operators is the matter of recognition. Due to the dire conditions of education, universities struggle to achieve the recognition of diplomas they hand over to their students. Solving this problem would open these fresh graduates the doors to continue their studies abroad. In this regard there are talks with neighbouring countries like Turkey and Jordan. At first place the diplomas obtained provide for a job within Syria, whereby the recognition of the Interim and Salvation Governments play a role. The explanations over the works, the mission and the educational methods along with practical references of their application are crucial hereby.
The financial aspect is not to be ignored however. Universities in the liberated territories, particularly the private ones, require high tuition fees which are not suitable for all Syrians, millions of whom were displaced from their homes and compelled to leave their properties. Aiming to regulate this for good, the Higher Education Ministries of both governments administer the tuition fees, making this a condition for their authorisation of the institutions which is granted for six months and open for renewal. Along the financial burden over students, universities furthermore pose a matter of insecurity and risk for students as they cannot ensure the continuity of the institution they pay for – not to reopen the issue of international recognition. In case of the university’s sudden closure, students are left alone for a start. Then, there is also mutual disparagement between the universities which results out of the rivalry to attract the most number of students. In all these conflicts, the money intake of educational institutions is increasingly criticised as the main culprit, to the degree that private universities for instance are dismissed as joint companies devoid of any ideals spoiling the money of the poor. Consequently, this leads to their sinking reputation. The universities, however, legitimate the fees for the need of new instalments and provision. It is worth mentioning that some armed groups provide for the education of their fighters, then mostly choosing public universities. They have no privileges over other students.
An aspect furthermore not to ignore is the shortfall of educational personnel as most have left the region due to the war. Nonetheless there are Syrian professors who have remained in their homeland and these constitute the majority. Next to them are professors, also of different Arab origin, residing in Turkey who teach here, whereby these have at times difficulties reaching their work place due to border closings and inadequate infrastructure. Universities abroad in Turkey and Jordan assisting Syrian refugees are also a great opportunity, also not covered in detail here.
On the part of students it is necessary to mention that the dispersion of faculty buildings around the liberated territories also poses difficulties for them in terms of transformation and housing. Some students moreover complain about the scarcity of books and other resources for their research.
IV. Related Posts
- Dr. Juma Al-Umar, Higher Education Minister for the Salvation Government (2017-2018), Nobles Of Sham
- جامعات حكومية وخاصة في المناطق المحررة.. والاعتراف أهم مطالب طلابها Orient News, Badr Husayn, 27-09-17
- The Higher Education Ministry in the Salvation Government… Shaam
- معهد متوسط للعلوم السياسية في اعزاز شمال حلب enabbaladi, 2017
- ماذا تعرف عن جامعة إدلب؟ (Video), 23-01-19, Ebaa News
- جامعة الشام العالمية تفتتح فرع الشريعة والقانون للإناث بريف حلب (Video) Nov 17, Qanat Jisr Al-Fadaiyyah
- افتتاح ‘جامعة الشام العالمية في اعزاز بريف حلب 1 SMAART, Jul 2017
- Jaish Al-Fateh (Army of Conquest): Segregation of Men and Women in Idlib University Causes Student Complaints, Nov 2016. Suwar magazine
- Idlib University: In Spite of the Odds (Video), On the Ground News , July 2018
- Opposition Fighters Pursue Their University Education in Idlib, Dec 2017, Enabbaladi
- http://www.idleb-university.com, access: 10-02-19
- تفاصيل عن جامعة الشام العالمية في سوريا Sep 2017، Syrian Democratic Union
- جامعة “الشام العالمية” تؤهّل كوادر جديدة Al-Araby Al-Jadid, Sep 2016
- خاصّ وهامّ لـ “أنا برس”: تعرَّفوا على أحدث الجامعات في مناطق الشمال السوري ، Nov 2015 Anapress
- جامعة “الشام العالمية” تبدأ أعمالها شمال حلب, Jun 2016, Enabbaladi
- Harran Üniversitesi Suriye’de faaliyet gösterecek, Aug 2018, TR TV.
- Güvenli bölgede ilk akademi açılıyor, Dec 2017, Yeni Şafak
- El-Bab’da Kurulan Harran Üniversitesi Eğitime Başlıyor, Aug 2018, Haberler
- أربع جامعات في إدلب وريف حلب, Jun 2018, Enabbaladi
- جامعة أكسفورد تفتح أبوابها بوجه الطلاب في الداخل السوري, Nov 2015, AMC
- “أوكسفورد” توفّر ثلاثة أنظمة تعليمية للطلاب شمال سوريا, Apr 2017, Enabbaladi
- جامعة سورية غير ربحية لتعليم الطلبة السوريين في تركيا, May 2015, Akhbar Al-an
- Gaziantep Ez Zehra Üniversitesi İlk Mezunlarını Verdi, Jul 2018 Haberler
- جامعة رومة الخاصة, FB page
- “ماري فرع سراقب”.. جامعة سورية جديدة لتحقيق آمال وأحلام الشباب السوري, Jan 2017, RFS
- طلاب الجامعات في المحرر ضحية التجاذبات السياسية .. وجامعة حلب الحرة بين “المؤقتة أو الخصخصة”, Nov 2017, SHAAM
- مجلس تعليم إدلب يُشكل لجنة للإشراف على الجامعات الخاصة, Aug 2017, Enabbaladi
- أكاديمية طب الطوارئ: تؤهل كوادر طبية شابة وتسعى إلى اعتراف دولي, Mar 2016, Souriatnapress
- افتتاح “الجامعة الدوليّة للإنقاذ” في ريف ادلب, Sep 2017, Madardaily
- إعلان مهم من “الجامعة الدولية للإنقاذ” لطلابها: غدًا تطبيق هذا القرار, Feb 2019, Eldorar
- “الجامعة العثمانية” تفتتح فرعًا في ريف حمص الشمالي, May 2017, Enabbaladi
- جامعة تركية خاصة تفتح فرعًا لها في المناطق المُحَرَّرة بسوريا, May 2017, Eldorar
- جامعة في إدلب تعفي طلاب الغوطة من الرسوم الدراسية, May 2018, Enabbaladi
- اتفاق بين جامعتي “إدلب وحلب” على لجنة مشتركة لحل قضية المفاضلة في المحرر, Sep 2017, SHAAM
- جدل حول انتخاب “رئيس لمجلس التعليم” في جامعة إدلب … هيمنة للجامعات الخاصة والتابعة للنظام و”حلب الحرة” محرومة من التصويت, Apr 2018
- الجامعات تتحول إلى ميدان تنافس على مستقبل الطالب السوري, Sep 2018, Hibr Press
- الجامعات الخاصة في إدلب مصدر لجمع المال.. ومصير مجهول للطلاب, Nov 2016, Zayton Magazine
- جامعة النهضة تفتتح أبوابها للاكتتاب على مفاضلتها على الرغم من التهديدات لمحافظة إدلب (فيديو), Sep 2018, Eldorar
- النهضة فوق ممتلكات جامعة حلب تنهض!, Sep 2017, Hibr press