Paper – Higher Education in North of Syria


Importance of university education comes from its fundamental role in increasing people’s chances to get more job opportunities compared to individuals who do not pursue post-secondary school education. University education also helps to increase one’s self-confidence and self-esteem, as finishing university education makes them much able to cope with work stress/pressure and emergency problems they may face. Although an individual may not be employed in his field of study and go to work in another profession, the hard work he has done to obtain a university degree will not go in vain, s/he will always make use of the skills and knowledge s/he has learned during her/his educational life. Her/his ability to do things successfully will evolve, which is a very important factor in the success of the individual in his life.
If higher education plays its true role in serving the community, it can provide the community with the qualified human resources that adapt the scientific development to contribute to the development of the community.
Hence, the importance of higher education lies in its outputs, not only in terms of quantity (number of degree holders) but also in the quality of these outputs – the human resource qualified to serve and build society.

The emergence of higher education in liberated areas

Departure of the regime’s educational institutions from the liberated areas has created a big gap, especially in the north of Syria, and later on, during ISIS control over the region, it closed the schools and educational institutions causing damages and destruction to them.
The liberated areas in northern Syria, especially the northern countryside of Aleppo, which is located between the Euphrates River in the east until Azaz in the west, was under control of ISIS, which stopped education and closed all educational facilities during its role, and since the liberation of the region from ISIS, the region has been moving towards stability and recovery from the effects of destruction and underdevelopment.

The population of the region (Northern and eastern countryside of Aleppo) is about 1.300.000 people. Jarablus, Azaz, Al-Rai, Marea, Al-Bab, Bzaa, Akhtarin, Qabasin and Sawran are the largest residential areas in the region.

After the opposition forces control over many areas in north of Syria, local administrations and governmental institutions affiliated to the opposition forces started to face challenges such as the collapse of most institutions, especially the education institutions and that large number of young people who fled and displaced from the regime-controlled areas to the liberated areas have stopped their university studies.
So, it was really important to reopen the educational institutions to save society, especially young people from ignorance and loss, and to restore their educational and cultural life.
In the light of the need for educational institutions parallel to the universities run by the Ministry of Higher Education in the Syrian Regime, academic universities in opposition areas took their first steps in northern Syria in 2015, to meeting the needs of students who have dropped out of the university since the start of the revolution in 2011.

The Syrian Interim Government announced the opening of Free Aleppo University in the liberated areas in conjunction with the opening of its counterpart in Idlib, but the University of Aleppo is more widespread because it has multiple branches distributed over most of the liberated areas, while the branches of Free Idlib University exist only Idlib city. Currently, Free Aleppo University is supervised and managed by the higher education ministry of the Syrian Interim Government. Previously, Free Idlib University as well was under control and supervision of the higher education ministry of Syrian Interim Government but later in 2017, the National Rescue Government of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham took control of Idlib University over. Idlib University which got under control of the National Rescue Government forced private universities in the region (Idlib) to merge in it and get their licenses from it.

The main challenges facing higher education in north of Syria:

One of the main challenges and problems that tires students and managements of the universities is the issue of accreditation and recognition of certificates issued by the universities in the region, where many of them, such as Free Aleppo University, Al-Sham University and Al-Nahda University, are still seeking to sign cooperation agreements or partnerships with international universities in Other countries in order to obtain international accreditation and recognition for the certificates issued by them, which increases the graduates chances to get a job with the certificates they hold.
This problem caused confusion and dispersion among a very large segment of students as they want to complete their studies or to study in a new branch and want to have accredited/recognized certificates.

In surveys conducted by the Stabilization Committee’s Studies and Research team, a wide segment of students who dropped out of university preferred to continue studying at the Free Aleppo University as it gives them the chance to complete their education from the academic year in which they dropped out of study despite knowing that there is no international accreditation or recognition for the certificates issued by it. In other universities, they have to start from the first year even if they were dropped out in the last year of their study.

According to the Survey, the majority of students are wishing to enroll in the universities that are providing internationally recognized certificates, so they prefer is the Turkish Universities like Haran and Gaziantep much more that the others.
One of the other most prominent challenges we have also observed is the inadequacy of universities. There are many universities in the region and they have a lot of faculties such as medicine, law, engineering, economics, etc… but the problem is that the faculties and universities are not geographically well spread (not all the faculties available in all the regions neither there are dormitories available in all the universities) consequently, the student either have to travel long distances to attend their classes or have to go move to the residential area where their universities exist.
But the most vital challenge facing university graduates is the possibility of obtaining employment after graduation, in light of the current economic conditions in the region and the high unemployment rate.

Below are the Universities that the Stabilization Committee collected information about them, their branches and the diplomas they provide:
Free Aleppo University / Marea and Azaz

The Free Aleppo University of was launched at the beginning of 2015-2016 academic year to be one of the first universities in the liberated areas. It operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Higher Education of the Syrian Interim Government and had many branches in Aleppo, Idlib, Rural Damascus and Homs in addition to institutes in Lebanon and Turkey. Currently, the University operates only in the northern countryside of Aleppo (Azaz-Marea). The following table shows the existing specializations/faculties and the number of students in each of them

The Certificates issued by the Free Aleppo University are recognized by the Syria interim government but there is no accreditation or partnership agreement with other universities

Al-Sham University / Azaz

The University was established near Azaz in 2015 by a decision of the Higher Education Commission in the liberated areas and in cooperation with the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation

The University includes the following faculties:

  1. Faculty of Education
  2. Faculty of Political Sciences
  3. Faculty of Islamic Sciences
  4. Faculty of Law
  5. Faculty of Economics and Business Administration
  6. Faculty of Civil Engineering
  7. Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology Engineering
  8. Faculty of Mechatronics Engineering
  9. Faculty of Chemical Engineering

The University also has the following postgraduate studies:

  1. Political Sciences
  2. Economics and Business Administration
  3. Accounting and Finance

Currently, there are 600 students studying in the faculties of the University. The annual tuition fees at the university is 100 USD except for engineering faculties that are requesting 150 USD as annual tuition fees. There are also 40 postgraduate students that are studying in the university and paying 700 USD as annual fees. the University offers the students free accommodation.
Regarding the accreditation of the certificates issued by the University, there is no any accreditation or agreements with other universities. The University seeks to conduct partnership agreements or twinning with international universities to obtain a strong accreditation for the certificates issued by it.

The International University of Science and Renaissance / Azaz

A private, nonprofit higher education institution/university, registered at the Higher Education Commission of American Universities in Texas on 31/3/2017. The University is in the process of obtaining accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission which is listed by the US Department of Education (DOE) as an accreditation institution recognized by the American Higher Education Accreditation Council. In 2018 the University has submitted an application to get accreditation from (ASIC) Accreditation Service Center in the UK. The University is licensed by the Syrian Interim Government by Decision No. 30 dated 27/4/2017 and includes the following faculties and institutes

Al Zahraa University

Is a nonprofit and general interest Higher Education institution established in 2014 in Gaziantep, it has a legal entity and privet financial edema. The university is based in Gaziantep city center (Gazimuhtarpaşa street). Al Zahraa University has opened a branch in Jarablus after signing an agreement with the local council of Jarablus in 2018. Jarablus branch has 4 departments / Faculties

  • Arabic Literature Faculty
  • Islamic Sciences Faculty
  • Education Faculty
  • Economics and Business Administration

Each of the faculties of Al Zahraa University provides the opportunity for undergraduate and post-graduation education, in 2018 – 2019 there were 81 undergraduate students in all the faculties in total alongside to 38 Master students.
The university does not oblige its students to take the YÖS exam, secondary school certificate is sufficient to register at the university provided that the rate should not be less than 50%. The annual tuition fee for the Bachelor students is 300 USD and 1800 USD for the entire Master program.
The certificate issued by the University is accredited by the University of Solidarity Niger and International City University Malaysia. .

Harran University / Al-bab

It is a Turkish university headquartered in Urfa, Turkey. Harran University has opened a branch in Al-Bab city in 2018. The branch has many departments and faculties such as Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. It is working to open new faculties such as Agricultural Engineering, departments related to Faculty of Arts and Humanities, and departments related to Sciences (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, etc.…). The applicant must have a high school diploma, regardless of the date of issuance. High school diplomas issued by the Syrian regime and National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces are accepted by the University alongside to the YÖS certificate

Gaziantep University / Al- Bab – AZAZ – Afrin

Gaziantep University is working to open a branch in the city of Al-Bab the registrations started in the Faculty of Business Administration and Economics for 2019 – 2020 academic year.
Gaziantep University is working to open a branch in Azaz, the registrations started in the Faculty of Sharia (Islamic Sciences) for 2019 – 2020 academic year
Gaziantep University is working to open a branch in Afrin, the registrations started in the Faculty of Education for 2019 – 2020 academic year

Başakşehir University / Academy – Al-Bab

Başakşehir Academy / University provides internationally recognized certificates issued by the Yarmouk University in Jordan (An agreement made between the Başakşehir Academy and the Yarmouk University according to that agreement Başakşehir Academy adopted the curriculum of Yarmouk University to teach its students and provided certificates issued by Yarmouk University). As it is a private university student carrying specific criterias can directly register in the Academy.
To meet the needs of the Students the Academy is frequently opening new faculties / departments. Currently there are 5 departments:

  • Islamic jurisprudence
  • Arabic Literature
  • Islamic Education
  • Business Administration
  • Political Science

To apply for the university students are required to provide high school certificate confirmed by the issuing party and at a rate of at least 65%, copy of student’s ID and four photos. Başakşehir University in Al-Bab sends the submitted papers to the university’s main office in Istanbul where a committee checks the submitted papers to ensure they meet the university’s requirements.
The following criterias are taken into account to accept the applications/applicants, having an accredited high school certificate recognized by the Yarmouk University, High Rate of the Certificate, not having a previous bachelor’s degree. The Academy does not accept certificates issued by the Ministry of Education in the Syrian Interim Government or the local councils.
This prevents the majority of students in the liberated areas from enrolling in the Academy, it was agreed on a formula which is conditional registration in the Academy pending the equivalence/accreditation of those certificates from Turkish National Education Ministry. The Academy also accepts students who were previously enrolled in “internationally recognized” universities and want to complete their studies in its classes, provided that the student should not be dropped-out from the university for more than four years”.

Tuition Fees:

  • The tuition fees for the undergraduate students at the Academy is 1000 USD.
  • The tuition fees for the Master students at the Academy is 4000 USD
  • The tuition fee for the Doctorate Students at the Academy is 6000 USD.

The Academy provides scholarship opportunity to at least 30 students a year. Scholarship holders are being selected by the main office of the University in Istanbul depending on many criteria including the department in which the student is studying, the annual rate, and interview results.  
Attendance at the Academy is a prerequisite, the student must attend 75% of the class hours each semester. The Academy has set the working days (two days per week). It provides accommodation for students from distant areas. Recently the Academy moved to a new building outside of Al-bab to open seats to as many students as possible. The Academy is negotiating with other universities to establish twinning programs.

Higher Institutes of Jarablus / Jarablus

After signing a Memorandum of Understanding between Jarablus Local Council and Gaziantep University, Gaziantep University (a Turkish public university) announced on its official website the opening a branch institute (5 departments) in the Jarablus city and Jarablus local council restored the building of Fawzi Alafis school in Jarablus to be used as a building for the branch institute.
In the first year (2018 – 2019 educational year), there were 5 departments started to provide services to 240 students who were passed the YÖS Exam (Foreign Student Acceptance Exam).

The 5 departments were:

  1. Department of Medical Services: ‘’First Aid and Emergency’’ and ‘’ Patient Care and Service Techniques’’ Programs
  2. Department of Social Sciences and includes: Office Management and Executive Management Programs
  3. Department of Al-Sharia (Islamic Studies)
  4. Turkish Language Department
  5. Department of Security and Protection

The accepted certificates for the registration:

  1. Secondary school (High school) certificates issued by local councils in the north and eastern countryside of Aleppo, this year the institute will allocate big percentage of its seats to the applicants holding certificates issued by the local councils.
  2. Secondary school (High school) certificates issued by Syrian Interim Government
  3. Secondary school (High school) certificates issued the Syrian Regime Government before 2017 (As before 2017 there were no certificates issued in the region).

According to the Educational Office of the Jarablus Local Council, the annual tuition fees paid by the students is 570 Turkish Lira, divided into two semesters 285 Turkish Lira per semester. Education Language is Arabic. Each institute/department can provide seats for 240 students.
In the current Education (2019-2020) year, 3 new departments have been opened (total number of departments became 9)

The newly opened departments:

  1. Computer Department
  2. Midwifery Department
  3. Physical Therapy Department

Currently there are 400 students registered in the institute (all departments). Having YÖS certificate is mandatory to register in the institute alongside the secondary school certificate.   


The YÖS exam is the entrance examination of foreign students at the Turkish universities. This exam will allow students to study subjects such as Medicine, Law, Psychology, Pharmacy, Mechanical engineering, Architecture and more in Turkey.
In most cases, the YÖS Exam consists of 80 questions. Most of the 45 questions in the exam are the so-called IQ questions (general ability questions, Intelligence Questions). The remaining 35 questions are from mathematics and geometry.
In case the student gets (85%) in the YÖS exam, s/he can compete for the seat of medicine faculties, provided that his average in the secondary school should more than 80%. If the student gets 70% and above in the YÖS exam s/he can compete for the engineering faculties. And in case the student gets %60 s/he can compete for the rest of the faculties and departments.
It is noteworthy that the dates of registration for the YÖS exam in Turkish universities vary from one university to another, usually, the registration happens between February and May of each year and the exam usually takes place between May and July of each year. 


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