Syria’s Private Universities

This article was published by Forward, Sami Moubayed's new English language magazine.

Syria’s Private Universities
By Joshua Landis , July 2007
Forward, Damascus, Syria

My first impression of Kalamoon University was that is was a cross between the Wild West and a small, tidy college campus familiar to anyone schooled in the United States. As we drove onto the Kalamoon campus in Deir Attiyeh, a town an hour north of Syria's capital, the small dust-devils kicked up by the winds that sweep along the Damascus-Homs highway died away. The grand entrance into the university was dotted with handsome new trees; its median was covered with a thick bed of green grass, newly mowed and vigorous, despite the brilliant and scorching sun of the Syrian badia.

Professor Sami Moubayed, my host, leaned toward the windshield of his car and excitedly began pointing out each of the new buildings. To the left was a string of neatly painted dormitories, each four stories high. To the right began the administrative and classroom buildings. Our car stopped at a well tended quadrangle; workers were watering rose bushes and splotches of new flowers that seemed to have been planted only yesterday. In the distance several new buildings were under construction, accompanied by a shiny white mosque, the minarets of which had yet to be capped with their pointed tops. 

Sami Moubayed in front of Kalamoon University
Prof. Sami Moubayed at Kalamoon Univ.

“Here we are,” Sami announced with pride. Students were streaming across the courtyard to get to their 8:00 a.m. classes. “Of all the reforms begun by President Bashar,” Sami proposed, “the private universities are the most important and successful. They will change Syria." He added, “I love teaching here. The students are eager and many are excellent, all the same, when students arrive, their level of English is very low,” he said shaking his head. “Language training is one of our biggest challenges. Syrians used to be known for their language skills, but the nationalization of foreign schools in the 1960s and the Arabization of the curriculum wiped this out,” he explained, slicing through the air with his hand for extra emphasis. “We have a lot of catching up to do.”

Turning to the future, Sami concluded, “The best thing is that I can teach what I want.” In his class on Syrian history, Professor Moubayed has reintroduced whole hunks of Syria’s past that have been neglected in the state curriculum – in particular the years of nationalist struggle against the French and the free-wheeling first years of independence, when Syria was the most democratic country in the Arab World and one of the most unsettled. “Sorting out our own history is the key to getting the future right,” Sami philosophized. Although only a few years past his thirtieth birthday, Sami, who did his undergraduate work at teh American University in Beirut and Ph.D. at Exeter University in Britain, has already published three important books on Syrian history and written hundreds of newspaper articles. Before walking into his class, Sami turned to me and said, “I could be making a lot more money working in the Gulf, but I have chosen to stay here in my country. My country needs me. There is so much we have to do.” This mix of missionary zeal and national pride is a sentiment I encountered many times in my conversations with teachers and administrators at Syria’s private universities. 

When President Bashar al-Assad first came to power in 2000 at the age of 34, he announced to his countrymen that he would modernize Syria and open it up to the world. In 2003, Kalamoon University laid its first stone. The next year, it opened its doors to freshmen, and this year, it will graduate its first class of roughly 60 students out of a total of 3,000 enrolled. Eight private universities have sprung up in the last four years. Only this month, another ten universities were licensed by presidential decree, a mix of private and public institutions. Despite the emerging importance of private schooling, higher education in Syria is dominated by five established state universities, situated in Syria’s largest cities. 250,000 of the 380,000 students enrolled in higher education in Syria attend the state universities; an additional 100,000 are enrolled in what is called “open education” that is dominated by virtual universities, offering courses on the internet. A mere 6,000 students are enrolled in the private universities, but that statistic is a year old and outdated. Today’s number is probably closer to 8,000 or 9,000. 

Sami led me through the handsome main building of Kalamoon into his class, where some twelve students greeted him. Classes at the private universities rarely exceed 25 to 30 students, many are much smaller. For the first ten minutes, Sami consulted with his students about their final research papers and profited from my visit to send several to me for advice. One bright you woman, writing about the breakdown of the Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations in 1990, asked me about sources she could use; another had the beginnings of the paper she was writing about the nature of the Iranian-Syria alliance and wasn’t sure how best to organize it.

Prof. Sami Moubayed with a few of his students
Sami Moubayed and several students

It was immediately clear how limited the sources available to the students were. College libraries are in their infancy and have few books. The Assad Library in Damascus is the only good library available, but it is an hour from Kalamoon and its books cannot be borrowed. Most student research is done online. In a later discussion, I was told that the cost of building a research library is so prohibitive that the private colleges plan to depend on web-based sources. They are planning to restrict their journal subscriptions to those available on line. Getting access to on-line books is a much bigger problem. Google’s project to scan all un-copyrighted books and make them available on-line will undoubtedly have a enormous impact on countries such as Syria.

I was struck by the revolutionary implications of the new universities as I answered the students’ questions and gave what helpful pointers I could. The contrast between the education at Syria’s public and private universities is stark. The new universities, have handsome campuses, small classes, and accessible teachers; most importantly, they are designed to teach critical thinking.

As one of the first Fulbright students to Syria, I attended the University of Damascus in 1981-1982, where I hardly ever witnessed a student consult with a professor. As a rule, students at the state universities have no contact with their professors. Many classes have 300 to 500 students enrolled in them. The students cannot all fit into the lecture halls; many are forced to stand outside the classroom doors in the hope of hearing lectures, others don’t attend classes at all, coming to the university only at exam time. The exams are largely based on memorizing. Students are used to regurgitating the textbook used in the class or the professor’s lectures, which can readily be bought in the form of Xeroxed pamphlets at the end of the semester. 

The Syrian higher education system is in tatters. At independence, Damascus University had a reputation as an excellent university and an elite institution. The city’s illustrious families had nurtured its growth since its founding in 1908, populated it with their children, and taught in it. By the 1950s, it enrolled some 5,000 students. Twenty-five years later it had expanded fourteen times. When I arrived in 1981, the student body was above 70,000. The Baath Party decrees of the 1960s, guaranteeing every student who passed the national baccalaureate exam a spot at university, had flattened the universities. Even if well intentioned, the socialist laws resulted in such rapid expansion that quality could not be maintained and facilities burst at the seams. Today, teachers’ salaries at the state universities hover around $200 a month. Professors have neither the possibility nor incentive to engage any but their very best students. Drop out rates are high. Only 2,100 students are sent abroad on scholarships a year and the state has allocated a trifling annual budget of $3.8 million for academic research.

By contrast, Kalamoon pays its professors about $1,440 for a three-hour, 16 week course. If a professor teaches three courses a semester for two semesters, the pay works out to roughly $700 a month over twelve months. If he teaches five courses, as some do, he will earn over $1,200 a month or five times as much as a professor at a public institution. Needless to say, private universities have hired away many of their best professors from the public sector. The competition between private universities is also fierce. When I took a tour of the Arab European University, another excellent private university that teaches in English and which is situated half an hour south of Damascus, I was surprised to find myself in a group of three other foreign academics. I soon discovered that they taught at other private institutions. AEU was enticing them to come start new departments it plans to open in the fall. 

When Bashar al-Assad became president, the word quickly began to circulate that he had authorized lists of new and talented professionals to be draw up so they could be recruited into the state bureaucracies to jump start reforms. In 2004, he told Flynt Leverett, who interviewed the President for his book, Inheriting Syria, that one of the country’s greatest problems was that it lacked professional cadres. He explained that the “Old Guard,” which many analysts complained about as the source of Syria’s immobilization, was not simply a handful of powerful people at the top of the regime, rather, it was the thousands of functionaries who populated the state bureaucracy, lacked adequate qualifications, and didn’t know how to change. To many Syrians, such provocative statements, were upsetting; to others, they were a challenge. Reforming the public universities to produce creative problem solvers will take decades. In the mean time, the new private universities present a clear work-around. Although they will never replace public education, they are carving out a new path for Syrian education.

Just as importantly, many of country’s talented students are staying in Syria to get their education. In the post 9-11 Middle East and due to the deterioration in Syrian relations with Lebanon, Syrian parents are increasingly hesitant to send their children abroad. The American University in Beirut enrolled some 300 Syrian students in 2005. That number has fallen. Today, Syrian parents with the means to send their children abroad are increasingly choosing to keep them at home, thanks to the private universities. Syrian admission fees are low compared to universities in Lebanon or Jordan. It costs about 80,000 Syrian pounds a semester, or $1,600, to attend Kalamoon University. AUB admission fees are around $17,000 a year, making it almost five times more expensive.

Other than students of the elite and upper middle class, the universities are attracting the children of Syrians who work in the Gulf or further a field. For expatriates who want their children to remain connected to Syria, and yet receive a good education and training in English, the new universities are becoming a viable option. They are also attracting students from neighboring countries, in particular Jordan, Lebanon, and, of course, Iraq. Over 40,000 Iraqis get their higher education in Syria, a number that will only increase with the refugees in Syria. Among the new universities is the Iraqi University, which is completely staffed by Iraqi professors. Although it only opened two years ago, it enrolls over a 1,000 students and is expanding at a break-neck pace. Syria’s new universities have already begun to stem the brain-drain that has drawn much of the country’s talent abroad. They are also attracting foreign students to Syria. 

I concluded my visit to Kalamoon by talking to Dr. Amal Yazaji, the Dean of the faculty of International Relations and Diplomacy, about establishing an educational exchange program between her school and the University of Oklahoma, where I teach. She was enthusiastic and immediately set about getting me an appointment with Salim Dabool, the founder of the University and Deputy Chair of the Board. At the Arab European University, I was able to sign a preliminary exchange agreement in one day. Usahma Darrah, the charming and multi-lingual Assistant to AEU’s President, Abdul Ghani Maa Bared, took me to visit his campus two days after I had been to Kalamoon. It too has a neatly laid out and attractive campus. It’s most recent building, finished in black and white marble, was built in six months. All the classrooms are equipped with multi-media technology. Three new departments are due to come on line this fall, a French department, international relations, and an Arabic Language Center for teaching foreigners.

After a sumptuous lunch, President Maa Bared, turned to me and asked about the nature of the exchange program I wished to establish. After half an hour of discussion, he said, “Yes, let us sign this agreement now,” and asked his secretary to draw up to proper documents. As we shook hands following the signing, he asked me, “When do you think we can begin? We have many students to educate and must help make relations between our countries better.” He smiled and, like a director urging on his cast, said, “Let’s get this show on the road.”

Entrance of Arab European University
At the entrance to the Arab European University

Comments (35)

DJ said:

Thanks for the informative article Josh, I have two nagging questions though. I hope you’d have the time to answer them:
1- What are the recruitment policies with regards to the teaching cadre. Is the priority given to the qualified teachers, or does the ‘Wasta’ still have its grip?
2- Why oh why we have a shortage of valuable (i.e. good, authentic, useful…etc) books in Syria? And whether it is for the bookstores or the public libraries, I can’t comprehend it. I still remember how we’d have to go all the way to Damascus to buy scientific books from that bookstore in Al Halbony. While a friend of mine who flies frequently to India keeps asking me if I’d want him to bring me some books with him, because it seems that whether they are printed in India or imported, books in India are much cheaper than they are in the west.
If the Indians can do it, why can’t we?

July 14th, 2007, 11:54 am


trustquest said:

Dear Landis,
This is a great post and gives a promising look into Syrian future with all the obstacles these academic institutions have to encounter. However, sometimes you do not give a balance academic evaluating regarding the Syrian regime. When Bashar Assad told Flynt leverett that Syria lack the cadres, he was putting in prison one of the highest economic professor in the country in prison. And when you mentioned the “Old Guard theory” you are actually looked like covering up for him when we all know that he is one of the Old Guard (unless we have a different definition of those guards), and his father and his cousins and all his upper circle are Old Guards, if the case is different they could have got rid of them long time ago.

July 14th, 2007, 2:14 pm


Joshua said:

Dear DJ,

1. My impression from talking to various teachers is that the system is not based on wasta. As private universities, which teach all, or almost all, classes in English, they cannot afford to hire professors that are unqualified or that are relatives of important people who have few qualifications.

There seems to be a distinct shortage of qualified candidates available – a good protection against wasta. Few Syrians speak English fluently and foreign-trained faculty are paid below a European scale, which makes it difficult to recruit them. Most of the European faculty I met were young and just starting their carriers. Some had been learning Arabic here and began teaching on a lark or in order to remain in the region for a year or two. Retaining them will be difficult.

I was told that AEU could not find Syrian candidates to teach business administration and turned to Lebanon. The Lebanese professors demanded much higher salaries than the university typically paid and negotiated them successfully.

I think the whole process of hiring is a work in progress and subject to constant change and adaptation as the universities expand. The reputation of any university is largely dependent on the quality of its faculty. These universities are very competitive as they struggle to build reputations in Syria. Those that fail to recruit respected faculty will pay a high price for their failure.

2. Books are very expensive everywhere in the world. Syria has a tiny market, as few Syrians read on any regular basis and fewer buy books. I imagine it is simply very difficult for any book dealer to make a profit on books that few read. Stocking books that are not best sellers or which don’t have wide local readership is probably a sure loser for all booksellers but the very largest.

These are my best answers, based largely on speculation.

July 14th, 2007, 2:32 pm


Atassi said:

“”Sami concluded, “The best thing is that I can teach what I want.” In his class on Syrian history, Professor Moubayed has reintroduced whole hunks of Syria’s past that have been neglected in the state curriculum – in particular the years of nationalist struggle against the French and the free-wheeling first years of independence, when Syria was the most democratic country in the Arab World and one of the most unsettled.””
I can’t agree more, reading this kind of statements coming from a distinguished Syrian intellect, gives me hope of pending changes.

Are any plans for the “Kalamoon University” to offer scholarships program to needy the talented Syrian students in the near future?

July 14th, 2007, 3:15 pm


Joshua said:

Dear Trustquest,
I cannot argue with you that Bashar al-Asad is related to his father and thus should be classified as old guard, rather than new guard. Maybe we should just say he is neo-old-guard?

Because he wants to preserve the state his father built, he cannot trash the regime he has inherited or fire large numbers of people or hire a totally new brand of people who would have little loyalty to the Baath Party or the state as it now exists. This inhibits any major transformation of the Syrian governing system, as you indicate. Education is part of that system.

I suspect the licensing of private schools and allowing them a large degree of latitude in how and what they teach is an experiment on his part.

He knows that Syria needs better trained people and must stop its brain-drain – which was the point of my quote from Leverett.

Your point is that the regime is part of the problem and cannot break the old system to start over again.

I think you are both right – that is why I suggest that the new private universities are a “work around.” He cannot afford to destroy the old product but is seeking, nevertheless, to promote a new product. It is a compromise between new and old.

July 14th, 2007, 3:19 pm


someone said:

When privet universities started to open in Syria, I said great, now will have a good parallel Educational system to repair the damage of the French-soviet system that Syria have, but unfortunately the private universities are a profit driven institutes, meaning, since it is an emerging market in Syria there is no emphases on quality and due to the usual chronic mismanagement in every thing ;these new private universities are turning into those Eastern-European universities which all Syrian are familiar with, meaning that the student will graduate in the end but the level of knowledge he would obtain is all up to him.
I am not saying that there is nothing positive in this new private educational institutes, on the contrary, at least now, a portion of the huge amount of money that the Syrian are spending on educating their off springs, out side Syria, is returning through these universities, and private universities will, eventually, help in creating an affluent, well educated, English speaking elite which was decimated by a system who viewed any anyone educated at an Anglo-American Institute as an enemy.
I could go on, and on about the negative things that are now appearing in these private universities, but I think, in the end the positives are more than the negatives.

July 14th, 2007, 4:07 pm


Alex said:


It is refreshing to hear that the building was up in six months and that the administrators of these Universities can sign a partnership or exchange agreement with an American University without consulting first with the moukhabarat : )

Will they have a faculty of medicine one day?

July 14th, 2007, 4:38 pm


Alex said:

Secrets of Syria’s assassins revealed

July 14th, 2007, 4:49 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Many thanks for the refreshing article and the vivid descriptions. I see a big difference from my days at DAM U in the early seventies where our library at the Science Faculty had everything but books! Books, for those of you old enough to remember, were typed on loose pages and written by the Soviet-educated professors. Usually these “notat” were ready just in time before the final exam. Does anyone remember?

But I can tell you that nothing has changed from my days back then as far as how attractive the young ladies (and dudes!) are concerned; so thanks for the pictures!

Your article gave some of us who cannot be physically present in Syria a fresh breeze of that lovely Syrian air. Cheers Josh!

July 14th, 2007, 8:45 pm


idaf said:

As someone who was approached with an offer to work for one of these new universities mentioned in this article, I can assure DJ and Someone that these new private universities are looking even abroad for talent (I work in the gulf). As Josh mentioned, Wasta seems not to be an option as these universities are building reputation and quality education seems to be their aim. From my encounter, it seems that they are willing to pay even much higher salaries than the ones mentioned by Josh above for the right Syrian talent.

Moreover, from firsthand encounter with these young Syrian university students, I can assure you that the quality of education is impressive. Few months ago, I helped one of the private universities mentioned above arrange an educational visit for around 50 of their students to several government and private institutions in the UAE. Everyone was impressed with these bright students. The quality and depth of those undergraduate students’ questions, their unexpected grasp of market economy concepts, ICT systems and government dynamics plus their excellent English impressed everyone who met them. I bragged for days about their intellect plus the “attractive young ladies” among colleagues here.. thanks FP for this important observation 😉

Such exchange programs, as the one Josh is organizing and such external educational visits are imperative to accelerate this “work around” Josh mentioned above.

Thank you Josh for updating us Syrians on this and other aspects of Syrian society today. As the comments above indicate, it’s clear that most expatriate Syrians hold outdated information on many aspects of the Syrian society (thanks primarily to the non-existent Syrian media). In your current visit to Syria, this blog has been real treasure. Looking forward for more of these enlightening stories.

July 14th, 2007, 10:30 pm


Alex said:


Next, we would like to hear your update on Aleppo please! 😉

When was the last time you visited or wrote anything about Aleppo?

July 14th, 2007, 10:55 pm


alurduni said:

In my opinion ,eduction and medical care should mot be privatised any where anytime,if you take a look at Jordan experience in privatization you will know what I mean, Eduction and medical care are human rights and not privilege ,Jordan has done terrible Job at that and Syria shouldn’t follow.

July 15th, 2007, 12:17 am


ausamaa said:

“Turning to the future, Sami concluded, “The best thing is that I can teach what I want.” In his class on Syrian history, Professor Moubayed has reintroduced whole hunks of Syria’s past that have been neglected in the ….”

Dr.Sami, Great. But let us worry about English, Business Administration, Economics, Management, Sciences and Finance for God’s sake. Let us have the much needed “Business” and “Management” Cadre. That is what would get us forward. Leave history, political science and the rest of the fancy stuff for a later stage. Let us get the wheels turning now.

July 15th, 2007, 5:33 am


DJ said:

Thanks for the answers Dr. Landis…I am glad that ‘wasta’ is not the hiring criteria, however, I believe that it is going to be a long path before these universities get accredited by reputable international institutions. Their websites often talk of ‘partnerships’, ‘associations’ and ‘exchange programs’ but not of accreditation.

I am most impressed by Sami, I applaud his valiant decision to stay and struggle at home although the financial rewards are not as much as it would be elsewhere (the Gulf for instance).

This trip which you have mentioned sounds interesting, was there any media coverage? any news articles on the web? … although it is part of my daily job to check out the Dubai Municipality and the department of commerce websites, I don’t remember reading anything like that…

Of course we can not blame them for not mentioning it (I am assuming here that your group of cute student had indeed visited either of them!)… I can only say shame on our own public media…

July 15th, 2007, 6:44 am


DJ said:

Is it just a cool coincidence that both Shiekh Khalifa (the president of UAE) and president Ahmadi Najad of Iran are visiting Syria at the same day (today)?… or are we looking forward for a resolution of the dispute over the three islands?

July 15th, 2007, 7:05 am


t_desco said:

Benefattor degli uomini,
riparator dei mali,
in pochi giorni io sgombero
io spazzo gli spedali,
e la salute a vendere
per tutto il mondo io vo.
Compratela, compratela,
per poco io ve la do.

July 15th, 2007, 7:39 am


AlbertoCaeiro said:

I am still unable to post as t-desco, so I will have to continue using this heteronym.

Saudis’ role in Iraq insurgency outlined
Sunni extremists from Saudi Arabia make up half the foreign fighters in Iraq, many suicide bombers, a U.S. official says.
By Ned Parker, Times Staff Writer
July 15, 2007

Although Bush administration officials have frequently lashed out at Syria and Iran, accusing it of helping insurgents and militias here, the largest number of foreign fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq come from a third neighbor, Saudi Arabia, according to a senior U.S. military officer and Iraqi lawmakers.

About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said.

Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject’s sensitivity. It is apparently the first time a U.S. official has given such a breakdown on the role played by Saudi nationals in Iraq’s Sunni Arab insurgency.

He said 50% of all Saudi fighters in Iraq come here as suicide bombers. In the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000 Iraqis. …
(Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2007)

July 15th, 2007, 7:53 am


Alex said:

t-desco .. this is amazing. Saudi Arabia sent half the foreign fighters to Iraq, yet Syria got 95% of the blame for what is happening in Iraq …

It is one thing for vice president Cheney to put the blame on Syria, but what I find very disappointing is the laziness of all those western reporters and analysts who keep repeating the same accusations against Syria … Besides Seymour Hersh how many others bothered to double check their government’s excuses for their mess up in Iraq?

Of course this also goes with the obligatory paragraph in most of the stories written about Lebanon the past two years: “Syria was implicated in Hariri’s murder” .. which of course refers to the original Mehlis report that implicated Syria based on the now discredited testimony of the supid witness that France is still hiding today.

But they all still repeat it and repeat that Syria is not doing enough to stop foreign fighters from going to Iraq!

July 15th, 2007, 8:40 am


ausamaa said:

“About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer.”

Well, there is the catch if you missed it: “according to official U.S. military figures” !!!!!!!!!!!

Does anybody take what those official figures represent seriously? Do hey even know Who is Who and What is What in post “democracy” Iraq.

The same “sources” say that have something like 135 Forigners in US Detention Facilities! I bet you that when the Lebanese Army finishes with the Naher Al Bared expedition they will have more Jihadees in “their” detention than does ALL OF the US military forces in IRAQ!

Something is wrong! Right?

July 15th, 2007, 1:24 pm


Ford Prefect said:

These figures are coming from the same incompetent administration that managed the failing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the failed Israeli invasion of Lebanon last year. All, of course, with the same ignorance and apathy they displayed in managing the hurricane events the hit the US Gulf states. Not to mention their stellar failures in everything they touched from ‘No Child Left Behind’ to the non-event of “reforming Social Security”. Nevertheless, President Bush keeps touting Iraq as a success story in fighting jihadists in Iraq rather on US soil. But, thankfully, the American people are wiser and more rational than their administration. According to the latest polls, a solid 66% of Americans now thinks that Bush has already failed in Iraq and what whatever he is saying now is becoming increasingly irrelevant to us. Over 30 Republican senators (50%) have already jumped the sinking neocon ship of this sorry administration.

And for some further amusement, I leave you with this quotation from “shooter” Cheney to Tim Russert of NBC’s Meet the Press on the eve of the Iraqi invasion (you are free to laugh out loud, but remember that these reckless lines have already caused the loss of hundred of thousands of lives already):

“….to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops after the military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I really believe we will be greeted as liberators.”

The administration has no idea, Ausamaa. It never did.

July 15th, 2007, 4:53 pm


norman said:

One of the problems with the private universities is the lack of recognitions of their degrees by the international comunity , It is important that these universities are affiliated with the recognised public universities or with recognised universities in the US or the EU so their degrees are recognised and their mony is not waisted.

July 15th, 2007, 8:06 pm


ausamaa said:

Ford Prefect,

I can not but agree with that. But even stupidity does not occure by mere coeincidences. So some one must have got that Administration where they “wanted” it to be, or as close as was possible. Dont tell me Pearl, Faith and Elliot Abrams did not know where they were taking Dubbya and the rest of his “unsuspecting” administration….!

July 15th, 2007, 10:26 pm


Bakri said:

Next, we would like to hear your update on Aleppo please!

Alex,take a close look at aleppo’s satellite imagery and you will notice the slum expansion from 3 sides, forming a crescent which surround from the north ,east and south ,this area concentrate the majority of aleppo inhabitants.

July 16th, 2007, 9:16 pm


Samer said:

I am pleasantly surprised, Dr. Landis: I was wondering if you were ever planning to go ahead one day and pay a visit to Deir `Atiy’yeh. Hala feik. It has grown and changed considerably over the years, the university being one indication of this–it is no longer the small village many remember. (Even then at that time, it wasn’t an obscure locale and was known for the notable figures who would hail from it, to count Say’yidna Epiphanios Zaayid, the late Orthodox [Roum] Metropolitan of `Ak’kaar, amongst these individuals.) This is owing in good part to the loss of sufficient water that was necessary to sustain agricultural activity, back then the village’s base of production. (Ironically however, the general lack of precipitation did not manage to stop a sudden, heavy hailstorm last summer from having its chance at destroying crops.)

The place has seen homes reconstructed and new structures built such as the hospital and university. Much of this is due to the money families made in the Gulf after business opportunities started presenting themselves there and also in large measure to Mr. M’ham’mad Da`boul (Abu Saleem) who facilitated the commencement of building projects through the use of his political connexions.

At any rate Dr. Landis, I hope you enjoyed your time spent there, and quite amusing to see you managed to catch my impishly grinning (or rather, make that both he and the professor) relative amongst Mr. Moubayed’s cadre there.

July 18th, 2007, 11:25 pm


Enzo said:

kalamoon university is a nightmare that i never wish to any one!
a total cayos and mess
a profite non educatation aim company.

October 18th, 2007, 8:13 pm


Shamiٍ said:

“Of all the reforms begun by President Bashar, the private universities are the most important and successful. They will change Syria.”

Let me differ with Sami Moubayed here:

1- all private universities are purely commercial. They do not care about the quality of education as much as they care about the money (compared to other prestigious private univs in the region)

2- they are owned by government officials and relatives (which represents a shift from total communism to some sort of “capitalist communism”… just try to open ur own private university)… those owners are more like landlords to their “academic” community.

3- they are tightly bound and controlled by the ignorance and stupidity of the higher education ministry’s rules and laws concerning private universities (example: private universities’ names should not conatain any reference to any foreign party… as if europe or the US really care about having their names being part of syrian universities’)

4- there are certainly very talented students and valuable brains taking their chance to develop in these univs… but honestly, IF students can learn about any academic subject in these universities, they certainly cannot learn FREEDOM, and that, Sami Moubayed perfectly knows…

So i very much doubt that any generation graduating from such pre-packaged universities will REALLY change Syria.

November 8th, 2007, 12:09 pm


Shamiٍ said:

PS: im not stating that these private universities are bad, but they are simply NOT ENOUGH to make a REAL CHANGE in Syria… these universities are simply like big commercial institute.. not the kind of high standard academic institutions that you would expect…

November 8th, 2007, 12:13 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Shami, granted that these universities are not enough, not internationally accredited, and they do not teach liberal democracy.

I also agree with you that they are owned by the elites who know little, if any, about education, let alone higher education.

But it is a start. A start of a positive change, one would hope. This is how a shift to liberal societies start – slow, organic, controlled, and gradual.

The days of change through a revolution are long gone.

November 8th, 2007, 1:06 pm


salem said:

Just one improtant question Mr Landis:
What about accreditation? Is Kalamoon univeristy accredited abroad? and if not what are the plans?
Cause I heard that a student ( studying or graduated from Kalmoon) went to Kuwait and was not accepted

July 19th, 2008, 6:28 am


Zenobia said:

In contrast to the view of Shami,

I would argue that you don’t need to teach ‘liberal democracy’ as FP mentioned to promote freedom. It might be nice… but one should recognize that the seemingly mere act of being a student in a classroom where a teacher asks you to speak your mind, to use your mind, to ask and answer your own questions, to participate in a seminar for example but even perhaps in a lecture as an equal of others with respect for others and possibly learn in collaboration with others.. is in fact, AN EXPERIENCE OF FREEDOM.

To me, this is the beauty of education or liberal education in essence, because it is not just about the content of what you teach and the name of the course. It is about how the classroom functions, how a professor may treat his/her students as valuable equals, as individuals with unique contributions, no matter what the academic subject.
Given the performative and experiential learning aspect of this exchange, the possibilities for living an educational life in a state of freedom are endless.

And as for Ausamaa… saying that we should just forget those social sciences for now, those “fancy” subjects and focus on the hard sciences and business….
Well, I totally and completely disagree!… For similar reasons that I give for not doubting the potential for freedom to arise in the educational environment no matter what you are teaching, I must argue that the social sciences are still absolutely critical to the building of creative minds. Unlike the hard sciences and the business realm, the social sciences offer the opportunity for creative thinking, for experimentation with ideas, with open questions, big questions of life, and again, a more egalitarian field in which to play with knowledge.

Therefore, the liberal arts and sciences are the place to build individuality and ‘out of the box’ thinking, as the expression goes, which is absolutely necessary for developing imaginative business people and scientists who can actually discover and create ,solve the pressing problems, be innovative and excel!

Ausamaa, i am disappointed in you. You should know better than to say such a thing. The social sciences in all its forms is exactly what young Syrians need to open the doors of thought and action.

July 19th, 2008, 8:35 am


trustquest said:

Thank you Zenobia, I not only agree with you, but I regret going to science school after knowing about all these social science colleges, which none of it exist in Syria.

I posted this comment on different post, but I thought it should be posted here to complete this post about the private institutions and their health and condition. In a recent decree, the legislatives in Syria came with re-enforcing decree to cut the artery of the free thinking and critical thinking from the education process. They apply the same decrees controlling the opposition on the education process. Which I think make you believe that the laws formerly and currently are still manufactured by intelligentsia ( Mokhabarat).

“Dictatorship Learning,
I believe most of the laws issued in Syria after the claim of the new economic direction and the opening of the private sector as a partner in building the country and sprung of private learning institutions, all these laws have the smell of Dictatorship Learning with no objective and in chaotic way the State and the Dictator do not understand their roles. This in my opinion is going no where and not even a step in the right direction. The example is the recent decree,, which stresses the penalty and punishment to include the closing of the institution in cases of tax evasion, moral defect and if the institution promote national divide, or against the national sentiment unity or any call for sectarianism, religious fanaticism directly or indirectly. Which are vague terms and the State keep using these terms to target others without definition and without legal base.
First, the financial issue is very dangerous; instead of the playing cooperative with this educational sector the State is playing the role of tax collector instead of partner where this sector is a complement to the State sector in education. All civilized countries support these institutions and give them the freedom to operate independently, and many are operate tax free.
You need a new generation built on critical thinking who can question the statue-quo and there are no limits in his way of thinking. You need a new State who can understand its role and help these institutions and make them tax free to build better future.
He visited India lately; did he or his wife learn something there?”

July 19th, 2008, 12:35 pm


hussein said:

Hi: assalaamualaikum to Muslims and ‘may peace be with you’ to others.
I am a Professor of Humanities (Philosophy, Politics, Sociology) from Singapore and intend to take a sabbatical (6-12 months) in a Syrian university where I could do research about the Middle East generally, and also take a course of Arabic for foreign speakers.
Although I was recommended to be attached to Damascus University, I noticed that much of the language used is Arabic, when I could only speak English and a few other languages, and I fear that I will be disadvantaged by such an attachment.
Can any good soul offer some sincere and professional advice as tio the universities that I could consider applying, please? May I get some leads to relevant websites and professors? Will indeed appreciate it.

February 4th, 2009, 9:38 am


JIM said:


April 25th, 2009, 9:46 pm


Dr. Toni Rahi said:

To whom it may concern at Kalamoun University (Research Center):
Dear Sir:
I am Dr. Toni Rahi, a graduate from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA and currently a faculty member at NOtre Dame University, Lebanon and at the Lebanese International University, Beirut, Lebanon. I’m at this present time interested in research and I got acquainted with the TEMPU IV program and I Have a proposal. Since the program is granted by the European Union and Syria is a partner country I would like that you honorable University be involved with us in the program. Please direct me to the right person to deal with and I will be sending the necessary information to do a great research proposal. Thanks in advance.
Dr. Toni Rahi

January 21st, 2010, 4:29 am


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