BEIRUT—Ten years into a civil war that has forced more than half of Syria’s population to flee their homes, the country’s higher education system is broken and Syrian universities are struggling to survive, according to Syrian academics and other education experts.
Speaking at a recent online workshop titled “Higher Education in Syria After a Decade of War,” organized by the European Union-funded EDU-Syria program and the German Academic Exchange Service, or DAAD, the panel members said Syrian universities faced a myriad of challenges. These include poor infrastructure, outdated curricula, unqualified teaching staff, absence of research resources and academic freedom, insecurity and lack of funds and international exchange. (See a related article, “Syrian Higher Education Faces a Long Recovery.”)
Sulaiman Mouselli, a professor of finance at the Arab International University in Daraa, in southern Syria, noted that despite the armed conflict, the number of students at Syrian universities in 2017 stood at half a million, along with 8,800 academic staff members, including administrators.
“That is a sign of resilience,” Mouselli said. “The challenges caused by the war are many in both public and private universities. They range from weak digitalization of infrastructure, low quality of education, outdated teaching methods, lack of digital skills, brain drain of academic staff due to low income, and instability and poor funding.”
“The deteriorating situation forced many students to try to catch up and learn by themselves through open sources and free online courses,” Mouselli added.
Schools Targeted by All Sides
Nahed Ghazzoul, assistant professor of linguistics at Paris Nanterre University, underlined the “disastrous” situation for Syrian universities and schools in Idlib and northern Syria. Control of that region is split between the Salvation Government led by the jihadist al-Nusra Front and the National Coalition for Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, both opposed to Damascus regime. (See a related article, “Universities in Syria’s Opposition-Held Areas Face an Uncertain Future.”)