Postgraduate Syrian students deprived of scientific references

Students take exams in Damascus University - November 23, 2023 (Facebook/Damascus University)

Students take exams in Damascus University - November 23, 2023 (Facebook/Damascus University)


Enab Baladi – Maria al-Shaaban

Syrian postgraduate students face difficulty accessing the majority of international references, research papers, and scientific studies, especially those from foreign sources.

This is due to various reasons, such as the absence of Syria’s name and its affiliated universities from the list of some scientific websites and official university platforms that publish valuable research and references. These resources would greatly benefit students in their studies worldwide.

Yara, 27, preferred not to mention her full name for security reasons, has a Master’s degree in Business Administration, specializing in Human Resources, from the Higher Institute of Business Administration (HIBA), spoke to Enab Baladi about her experience studying for a Master’s degree in Syria, starting with the students’ need to use unofficial websites to access recognized and internationally documented scientific references that are blocked in Syrian universities.

According to Yara, in the initial search for any topic, more than half of the search results are not accessible for those living in Syria or require online purchase, a service not available in the country.

In some cases, if the article is deemed crucial and it is clear from the free introduction that it will enrich the student’s research, one of the acquaintances outside Syria is asked to purchase the article “online,” and then the payment is settled between the two individuals in some way.

Batoul, 26, who preferred not to mention her full name, is a Master’s student in the Department of Transportation Engineering and Construction Materials. She relies on a website that allows free access to many paid materials.

The website provides paid research papers for countries and institutions with weak economic levels without subscribing or paying any monetary amount, and it is widely used in developing countries.

As for the open Arab sources, such as articles, Master’s theses, and doctoral dissertations published by Arab universities on their official websites, the majority of them are from universities in Egypt, Gaza, Tunisia, and Algeria.

The research papers belonging to universities in Gaza, Palestine, are considered valuable compared to other sources, yet Arabic references remain the second option for postgraduate students, as Yara mentioned.

As for open foreign sources, they are often closed off to students in Syria, as universities sometimes require choosing the country of residence or the name of the affiliated university, and Syrian universities are not available in the list.

Consequently, the student is forced to access the website through illegal software programs and websites to obtain the desired material.

Books and paper references

The Al-Assad National Library is considered one of the reference sources for students and researchers, containing thousands of books, studies, and research papers, in addition to equipped halls for research and reading. However, the problem for students lies in their need for modern references, most of which are not available in the library.

The situation is similar in the other university and institute libraries, as they lack modern references, according to Master’s graduate Yara.

Students of postgraduate studies must distribute three copies of their graduation projects and research papers to the Al-Assad Library, the University of Damascus Library, and the library affiliated with their faculty before receiving their graduation certificate.

Apart from library shelves, stalls are scattered in popular markets in Damascus, such as under the President’s Bridge or “Jisr al-Rais,” and the street of libraries in the al-Halbouni District in Damascus city. These stalls sell used books, some of which are very old and valuable, in addition to rare books and novels that are not found in public libraries.

Some students rely on these markets to search for and secure books that are not available in public libraries or are available at high prices.

Weak Internet and limited access

The long hours of electricity rationing, the weak network, and the internet connection affect university students at home or on campus. Not all colleges provide Internet or even electricity within their buildings. Hence, the research activity for students is compromised, and accessing studies and research in a timely manner becomes difficult.

Yara adds that the limited openness to the outside world restricts society’s perspective on new topics and the importance of scientific research, whether for students or their families. This point leads to inaccurate and biased survey results when sampling from the community and conducting studies based on them.

One of the obstacles facing postgraduate students in Syria is the shortage of supervising teaching staff. Yara mentioned that sometimes students are forced to extend their study period for an additional semester or more, as the professors supervising the batch are responsible for a large number of students, and time constraints arise between supervising postgraduate studies and the required teaching hours from them.


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