Public Universities: The Ministry of Higher Education supervises Syria's universities: Damascus University, Tishreen University, the University of Aleppo, and Al-Baath University. The ministry has worked cooperatively with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and UNESCO to develop the Syrian Higher Education and Research Network (SHERN), a national network for higher education with connection to the Internet. The project began in January 1999, and the core development is scheduled for completion in mid-2001. A presidential decree in 2000 led to the establishment of a Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering at the four universities with 150 openings at each site.
Al-Baath University was founded in 1979 in Homs and housed the country's first departments of petroleum engineering and veterinary medicine. In 2000, the university had 16,274 students and 505 teachers. Tishreen University was founded in 1971 as the University of Lattakia. It offers an undergraduate degree in architecture.
The University of Aleppo, founded in 1960, offers courses with French, English, and Arabic as the language of instruction. In 2000, the university had 53,465 students and 3,377 teachers. There are a number of institutes attached to the University of Aleppo: the Agriculture Research Center, the Institute for the History of Arabic Science, the Intermediate Institute for Agriculture, the Intermediate Institute for Commerce, the Intermediate Institute for Engineering, the Intermediate Institute for Medicine, the Intermediate Institute for Dentistry, the Intermediate Institute for Secretariat, and the School of Nursing.
Damascus University, founded in 1903, is Syria's oldest and largest university. In 2000, there were 81,173 students and 2,809 teachers. Undergraduate students must complete a compulsory computer course, but the university has a limited number of computers for student use. In 1999 only 5 of the university's 21 computer laboratories had open access for students. The university's divisions include 13 faculties or areas of specialization, 7 intermediate institutes, and one higher institute, the Higher Institute of Administrative Development. Damascus University has close cooperative ties with a number of Arab and international organizations; faculty and staff work cooperatively on research and exchange programs. The university awards the following degrees: bachelor's, Diploma of Qualification and Specialization, postgraduate diploma, master's, and doctor of philosophy. The university's library is the center for Syria's Directorate of the Universities' Libraries.
The Higher Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology (HIAST) in Damascus trains engineers to head and guide scientific research and to propose projects that will address Syria's current and future needs. Many of these projects focus on improving and expanding the country's computer system, updating software, and providing an interface in Arabic for software programs. HIAST has been designated as a Center of Excellence and one of the 13 members of the Network of International Science and Technology Centers for Sustainable Development. Founded in 1955, the institute serves approximately 700 researchers, faculty, and students and awards the following degrees: bachelor of science, master of science, and doctor of philosophy.
Specialized Institutes: Several other institutes in Syria are not affiliated with any university. Aleppo Institute of Music, founded in 1955, has departments of Eastern and Western music. The Institute of Electrical Engineering and Electronics, located in Damascus, was founded in 1974 with help from Germany. Germany also assisted with the founding of the Institute of Technical Training in 1978; this institute offers only two-year courses. On September 19, 1999, Presidential Decree Number 4 established the Higher Institute for Management. This institute works collaboratively with the European Union. The Arab Language Academy of Damascus was founded in 1919. It is devoted exclusively to the study of Arabic language, literature, history, and culture.
Non-university level technical and vocational institutes, known as Intermediate Institutes, offer two-year training programs in a variety of areas for those having the Al-Shahâda Al-Thânawiyya Al-Fanniyya. These institutes award an Associate Degree, the Wathîqat Takharruj or Musaddiqat Takharruj certificate. One month of practical training must be completed in the summer as a part of the curriculum. The non-university level technical and vocational institutes are the overseen by the Supreme Council of Intermediate Institutes.
Courses, Semesters, & Diplomas: All higher education institutions are state controlled and financed. The Ministry of Higher Education and the Council of Higher Education coordinate higher education programs. The academic year is typically September to June. Arabic is the language of instruction. Based upon the results of their secondary examinations, Syrian students may enter nonuniversity level technical/vocation postsecondary programs or university studies or teacher education programs.
The Ministry of Education maintains agreements with many sisterly Arab and foreign countries that encourage cultural and educational exchanges. Foreign students may study at one of Syria's higher education institutions if they have obtained visas from the Syrian embassies abroad, have a residence permit, and meet the institution's admissions requirements. Foreign students may enroll in language proficiency courses at the Training School for Foreigners so they can master the Arabic language.
University studies are available in three sequential levels: Licence or Licentiate (bachelor's degree), postgraduate diploma and master's degree, and the doctorate. The time required to earn the Licence or Licentiate varies from four to six years. Arts, humanities, Islamic law, economics, social sciences, and fine arts programs each require four years. Five years are needed to complete engineering, architecture, agriculture, pharmacy, dentistry, and veterinary science programs. Medical students receive the Docteur en Médecine after six years of study. Those studying an additional year beyond the Licence or Licentiate receive the postgraduate diploma, and a master's degree is conferred after a minimum of two years of study beyond the Licence or Licentiate. The doctorate is awarded to those who, after receiving the master's degree, complete three additional years of study, conduct personal research, and defend a thesis successfully.
The primary grading system used by higher education institutions is based on a percent system: those scoring in the 90-100 percent range earn Martabet al Sharaf (Honors); 80-89 percent, Momtaz (Excellent); 70-79 percent, Jayed Jeddar (Very Good); 60-69 percent, Jayed (Good); 50-59 percent, Makboul (Pass); 0-49 percent, Raseb (Fail).
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