First batch of graduates from the International Sham University
Four year into its establishment, the International Sham University (ISU) held a graduation ceremony for its first batch of students in the town of Shammarin in rural Aleppo on 12 October 2019.
The graduates included 57 students from three faculties: The Faculty of Sharia and Law, the Faculty of Political Science, and the Faculty of Management and Economics including the following programs: law, Sharia, business administration and accounting, finance, and political science, according to the director of examination at the university, Jassim al-Sayyed.
Al-Sayyed added that last year the university also provided postgraduate programmes within these faculties. Moreover, the university is preparing this year to open post-graduate programmes in the Faculty of Engineering.
Unclear future for graduates
Hassan Marwan Haraj, a recent graduate of management and economics, said that he felt a sense of ‘responsibility’ after obtaining his bachelor’s degree. He described the degree as a ‘commission’ for him and his cohorts from the generation that grew up in northern Syria, outside of regime control.
Nevertheless, the lack of international recognition of the university has become a source of headache for Hasan and his fellow students. Their studies and work within Syria, however, are not affected by this issue.
The region had suffered from mass migration and displacement due to the precarious security situation. Therefore, according to Jasim al-Sayyed, director of examination at the ISU, the first aim of the ISU is to provide the community in northwestern Syria with the necessary graduates and cadres to deliver basic services.
Al-Sayyed pointed out that the ISU is working to communicate with universities and countries to secure for itself recognition, in order to enable its graduates to pursue their studies outside Syria if they want. The ISU meets most of the academic and scientific standards required to obtain international recognition, according to al-Sayyed, however, the issue of recognition is a political one.
Al-Sayyed added that the area is seen by international bodies to be controlled by “extremist” groups. This perception has had a detrimental effect on efforts by the university to acquire accreditation. Nevertheless, al-Sayyed is optimistic about the entry of the Turkish Gaziantep University to the region. This, according to al-Sayyed, could open a door for the Sham International University to be accredited and recognized by the Turkish Ministry of Higher Education.
Challenges and Turkish support
The ISU was founded in 2015 with the support of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). The university opened to enrollment in 2016, with 300 students who joined its first four faculties: sharia and law, political science, administration and economics, and engineering (including the departments of computer, civil, chemical engineering and physics).
Al-Sayyed also said that the university added a faculty of education to its ranks. He estimated the overall number of students for this year to be around 600 in all faculties.
Al-Sayyed stressed that the university overcame the precarious security conditions in the area four years ago. The region had been under relentless bombardment by Russian and regime forces, in addition to ISIS forces advancing to the threshold of Shamarin and the Syrian Democratic Forces towards Azaz city. However, the ISU was able to develop its teaching staff and improve teaching quality.
Tuition fees at the university is around 150 USD and provides students with monthly support, of 100 TL (about 17 USD) in addition to accommodation and food.
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