In Syria, education is not divided into higher professional education (HBO) and research-oriented higher education (WO). Syrian higher education institutions can offer both types of education, and some degree programmes offer a combination of both. These programmes focus on research and professional practice.
Students can obtain the following degrees:
To obtain a Bachelor, students take a study programme with a focus on research or professional practice.
- Duration: 4 years. Exceptions: degree programmes in architecture, engineering, dentistry, pharmacy or veterinary medicine take 5 years. The degree programme in medicine takes 6 years.
- Content: education focused on research or professional practice. Usually, the 1st year is a preparatory year in which students study general subjects.
- Admission requirements: the General Secondary Education Certificate. There are additional requirements for some fields of study; see Admission to higher education.
- Diploma: Bachelor / الإجازة. The name ‘Licence’ is also used. ‘Bachelor’ or ‘Licence’ is always used in combination with the field of study. For example: Bachelor in Economics / الإجازة في الاقتصاد.
Students with good results for their Bachelor can continue studying for a Master / الماجستیر.
- Duration: 2 years.
- Content: education with a focus on research. The 1st year is for compulsory subjects and exams. Students have to pass the exams for all subjects. In the 2nd year, they have to write a thesis.
- Admission requirements: a Bachelor with an average of 70% as final result. Often, students also have to pass a language test in English or French. For degree programmes in Dentistry, Engineering and Medicine, candidates must take a special admission exam.
- Diploma: Master / الماجستیر. ‘Master’ is always used in combination with the field of study. For example: Master in Civil Engineering / الماجستير في الهندسة المدنية.
Students can obtain the degree of Doctor after completing a doctoral degree programme (PhD). Usually, candidates continue to study in the field of study of their master’s degree.
- Duration: at least 3 years.
- Content: students conduct research, they write and defend a dissertation and publish at least 2 academic articles.
- Admission requirements: there is a strict selection process. Candidates need a Master in a similar subject with a result of at least 75%. In addition, candidates have to take a language test in a modern foreign language.
- Diploma: Doctor / الدكتوراه.
Types of higher education institutions
Syrian higher education institutions can offer professional and research-oriented higher education. Students can pursue higher education at:
- public universities;
- private universities; and
- higher institutes.
Education at most public universities is free. Students can obtain a bachelor, master or PhD. They only pay a small annual registration fee. Most Syrian students study at public universities. The University of Damascus is the oldest and largest.
The Syrian Virtual University was established in 2002 by the Ministry of Higher Education. Together with international institutions, the Syrian Virtual University provides online education only. Students at the Syrian Virtual University pay tuition fees.
There have been private universities in Syria since 2001. These universities can only teach if they are recognised by the Ministry of Higher Education (see ‘Recognition’). Until now, private universities have only been allowed to offer bachelor's programmes. Students have to pay tuition fees. Apart from Arabic, education can also be provided in English.
Higher institutes often fall under the supervision of a public university or the Ministry of Higher Education. These institutes offer various types of programmes. Students can obtain a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD degree. However, very few students choose to study at a higher institute. This is because the admission requirements are often more strict than those for programmes offered by public universities.
Admission to higher education
In Syria, students have access to higher education with the General Secondary Education Certificate.
General admission requirements
Study programmes often have general requirements for students with the General Secondary Education Certificate:
- Students who took the scientific specialisation can usually apply for all degree programmes in higher education.
- Students who took the literary specialisation can only apply for degree programmes in fields such as language, literature, history, economics and law.
Universities can admit students with very good results for the Vocational Secondary Education Certificate to a bachelor's programme in a similar field of study. However, this does not happen often.
Additional requirements and drawing of lots
Some degree programmes have extra requirements. For example, students must have passed an exam for a second foreign language or another subject.
Degree programmes in Medicine, Dentistry, Architecture and Natural Sciences require good results for the General Secondary Education Certificate exams. The required results vary from year to year. Sometimes, students also have to take an entrance exam.
If there are too few places for a particular degree programme, students need to draw lots.