SRHE Digital University network event ‘Digital Technologies on the Ground: Foregrounding local educational practices in an era of global technology’
Securing Syria’s academic knowledge and industrial future: a case study of agricultural engineering education.
- Dr. Tom Parkinson, Lecturer in Higher Education and Academic Practice, University of Kent.
- Dr. Shaher Abdullateef, Associate Professor, Mustafa Kemal University, Antakya, Turkey.
Since conflict began in 2011, Syria has experienced the worst humanitarian crisis since the Cold War. The country’s higher education system, once relied upon to provide skilled labour for industry and agriculture, has been decimated physically, socially and infrastructurally. Thousands of the country’s academics have fled to other countries, and tens of thousands of formerly registered students have been forced to end their studies.
In this presentation we reported and reflected critically on an intervention by Syrian academics in exile, in association with regional NGOs and Cara (Council for At Risk Academics), to deliver a university-level agricultural engineering module to former students inside Syria via digital platforms and community centres. We discussed challenges related to de-skilling, recruitment, scarcity of resources, connectivity and mobility. Finally, we looked beyond the study’s immediate focus on Syria and consider some further-reaching implications of this action research for educational-humanitarian interventions in other regions where there is conflict, including providing:
- Support for engagement between academia and industry in the context of war and humanitarian crisis.
- Opportunities for at-risk academics to continue teaching and maintain the currency of their knowledge.
- Opportunities for students, graduates and professionals in war-torn regions to sustain their knowledge and gain new skills.
- Support for educated individuals and communities in leading the regeneration of their countries.
- Protection for the intellectual heritage of countries besieged by war and humanitarian crisis.
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