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The page below gives a brief summary of the work of our Syria Programme, the latest of our Regional Programmes which, in accordance with our Articles, "...advance education by supporting academics and their educational institutions in countries where their continuing work is at risk or compromised, to ensure that such academics and institutions can continue to fulfil their critical role as educators for the public benefit."  Much more detail on the work of the Syria Programme (SP) can be found on our special SP site here.

Cara's Syria Programme

Drawing on the experience of our two earlier regional Programmes, for Iraq and Zimbabwe, in 2016 we launched our regionally-based Syria Programme (SP), to provide support to academics affected by the Syria crisis. 

Sham University, near Azaz in north-west Syria, the focus of much of our Syria Programme's recent work

We funded the initial 2015/16 consultation phase with £50,000 from our own resources.  Since then, awards totalling $4.2m have allowed us to take this work forward.

The SP has five main work areas: 

  • English for Academic Purposes (EAP); 
  • Academic Development; 
  • Research Incubation Visits; 
  • Cara-Commissioned Research; 
  • and the Syrian Research Fellowship Scheme.  

Over 200 Syrian academics are now actively engaged with the Programme’s work, and the SP also enjoys strong support from UK universities and learned societies. Over 60 UK-based academics contribute to the SP’s EAP activities, with over 400 more supporting the SP’s Research activities and Academic Development work. Recognising the importance of Syria Programme participants’ local knowledge and expertise, several UK universities have involved SP participants as paid researchers in their own research projects. Many SP participants have also successfully submitted articles to peer-reviewed journals, on a wide range of subjects.  

The commitment of many of our partner universities and their staffs to our SP was amply demonstrated by their quick and generous response to the Emergency Appeal we launched in February 2023, following the devastating earthquakes in the Turkey/Syria border region which had left many of our Syrian colleagues homeless, forced to camp in bitter weather in cars, mosques, sports centres and other public buildings.  With the £140,000 we raised from institutions and individuals, and £30,000 from our own reserves, we were able to provide emergency funding to over 90 Programme participants and their families, so they could travel to safer areas and meet their basic needs for food, shelter, medicines and clothing.  Regular SP activities were able to resume soon afterwards.

Over the last year, the SP has put emphasis on a collaborative developmental partnership with Sham University faculty, in the non-regime-controlled area of north-west Syria (see photo), to help show evidence of their adherence to European standards and guidelines even though they are not formally accredited by any national authority. Many SP participants also cross the border from Turkey regularly to work with Sham colleagues, to help sustain access to higher education there for local communities and for the many Syrians displaced to the area by the conflict.

Our SP has been the subject of three very positive independent evaluations.  It is the only programme that solely and systematically supports Syrian academics in the region, recognising the vital role they have to play in the future of Syria’s higher education and research sectors, and in the training of future generations of doctors, teachers, engineers, lawyers and other experts.