Evaluation of Syrian university record systems in the non-regime conflict-affected North of Syria. (English)
Evaluation of Syrian university record systems in the non-regime conflict-affected North of Syria
More than a decade of conflict in Syria has had a major impact on the Syrian higher education (HE) sector, destroying infrastructure and leading to mass internal and external displacement of its population, including its educators. Displacement has deprived many of access to a university education but has also impacted on student mobility and transition of those who have been able to continue their tertiary education. This research looked at the student record systems of two universities in the non-regime northwest of Syria (NWS) to evaluate their role in supporting mobility and transition for undergraduate students looking to progress to post-graduate study outside Syria. Mixed qualitative and quantitative methods were used to enhance the legitimacy of research findings, combining interviews with 6 of the two university’s staff (teaching and administrative) involved in student record systems; a survey of students eliciting 370 completed questionnaires; and two focus groups run with students. Both universities’ record systems were based on the regime’s hardcopy system adopted because of familiarity. Despite recognition of their limitations, most evident in respect of sharing records and documents for transition purposes, neither have been able to afford digitisation, in addition to lacking the skills to develop and maintain digitised systems. From the students’ perspectives the issue was fear of the vulnerability of hardcopy documents, coupled with issues of access and delay, i.e. up to 3 months for anything but basic documents, added to which the costs and risk of travel to collect them. Nevertheless, they also noted the continued need for hardcopies as a requirement of transition to employment. The study also revealed that there were currently no mobility opportunities for students in NWS, and that the realities of transition were limited primarily to universities in Turkey with which a few bilateral agreements had been reached. For the main, the hardcopy record systems served their purpose, with the real barrier to transition being the non-accredited status of the HEIs themselves and resulting non-recognition of student certificates, coupled with the lack of standardisation in provision across universities in the NWS, e.g. curricula and study periods, raising questions of equivalency.