With eight years since the war began, Syrian universities have suffered from corruption, lack of funding and brain drain, according to a report.
The conflict has destroyed the country’s higher education system, according to researchers at Cambridge University and Syrian academics in exile.
The researchers say about 2,000 specialist university graduates have left the country as refugees abroad.
One of the Syrian academics, according to the BBC, said that gunmen killed his brother and posted a video on the Internet.
The report, conducted by a British organization known as the Council of Academics at Risk as part of its program for Syria, says the education sector has been weakened by the destruction of facilities, human rights abuses, what the report described as the rigidity of curricula, and militarization of the campus.
The team spoke to 19 Syrian academics living in exile abroad, and some described how they had been arrested and tortured by the Islamic State organization.
One scientist said that after his release he learned that his captors had said among themselves: “If we catch him anywhere, we will kill him because he did not help us make bombs”.
Another said: “My younger brother, who had a family and five children, was killed.
“The state organizing group put it in one of the videos they publish”.
The researchers also spoke with 117 faculty members and students at 11 universities in Syria: eight in government-controlled areas and three in areas beyond government control.
Interviews were conducted via some electronic applications, or e-mail.
“There are a large number of students, so we spend most of our time sitting in the classroom for more than two hours”, one university student said.
Another spoke of “feet of equipment, free of place except for seats and pens”.
But faculty at a government-run private university have expressed a different experience, saying: “University funding resources are excellent”.
Among the recommendations of the report was the call for the Syrian higher education sector to engage in global partnership programs with other universities in the Middle East and Western and European universities.
But the authors of the report believe that the most pressing issue is the bleeding of intellectual talent and the security threat to individuals, which means that academics cannot play their role in rebuilding Syrian society and shaping the future of the country.
“The implementation of this collective research project has been a challenge to us, especially given the circumstances”, said Professor Colin McLoughlin, who works at Cambridge University’s School of Education.
But the results are important, as is the way of collective action”.
“The work of the Council in supporting displaced academics is vital, we must remember and respect their work, and we must continue to support research in Syrian higher education”.