Research & Research Grants Awarded

Study Fieldwork: ‘Conservation of farmers’ crop varieties exposed to genetic erosion in Northern Syria.’

A Research Framework

Research offers the perfect vehicle for delivering the Syria Programme’s (SP) objectives in the form of action-learning opportunities, which facilitate professional connection and collaboration through the Cara Syria partnership model, as well as continued academic development and contribution, introducing broadly accepted international standards and good practice in research, by ‘doing’, as well as providing publication opportunities to enable Syrian colleagues to grow international academic publication portfolios.

Two Parallel Research Strands The SP encompasses two parallel research strands, both restricted to SP participants. The first Syrian Research Fellowship Scheme (SRFS) is competitive with research proposal calls approximately nine-monthly. The second Cara-commissioned Cross-cutting Research (CCR) focuses on Syrian HE and the emerging HE sector in the non-regime northwest, in particular. Since 2022, the Cara SP has been running a number of action-research studies focusing on enhancing the quality of HE provision, in line with internationally recognised norms.

Cara Partnering Model The Cara partnering model remains central to the SP, facilitating professional connection and collaboration, not just with colleagues from the wider regional and international academic communities but, as importantly, across Syrian colleagues, mitigating professional isolation, supporting the development of discipline clusters, and connections that build resilience and a resource on which to draw in the immediate and the longer-term, whatever the future holds.


SP ‘Peer Review College’ Research activities rely extensively on university discipline experts for their delivery, known collectively as the SP ‘Peer Review College’ whose members number over 400. Members of the SP Peer Review College volunteer to take on one or more of the following roles: study team mentor; independent expert reviewer whose initial evaluation of funding proposal submissions received, informs the final selection process; editor; academic writing workshop facilitators; and E-learn Soiree presenter.

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Syrian Research Fellowship Scheme

This competitive strand is restricted to Syria Programme participants, with approximately six- to nine-monthly calls for initial expressions of interest and outlines. The most recent, open to all disciplines, went out in April 2023, eliciting 22 expressions of interest. In keeping with the Cara partnering model, each eligible study team is partnered with two mentors to support the proposal development phase, establishing professional connections from the very outset.

More than 80 discrete pieces of research have been supported since the first Syria Programme SRFS grant call in 2018, in which over 100 Syrian colleagues have been involved, the majority focusing on the challenges facing Syria or Syrian communities in exile. All submissions are sent for initial review by independent experts in the topic area, with their feedback used to inform the final selection process.
Selection Criteria: i. Likely impact, including capacity-building impact; ii. Quality; Innovation/Originality; iii. Feasibility; iv. Team relevance/competence; v. Value for Money; and vi. Anticipated Dissemination Strategy.

Enhancing the Benefits of Feedback As part the SP’s capacity-building aims, feedback received from independent expert reviewers and the SP Grant Awards Committee is compiled and shared with team members regardless of whether they are awarded a grant. Team mentors are asked to review the feedback with their Syrian colleagues to ensure the points made are fully understood.

Cara-Commissioned Research

Cara-commissioned Research (CCR) facilitates research collaborations focusing on Syrian HE, and the emerging HE sector in the non-regime North West of Syria in particular. CCR topics are developed in consultation with, and implemented by, SP participants, supported by SP-recruited mentors from proposal development through to final publication.

  • Phase 1 (2017-18), led by Professor Colleen McLaughlin, University of Cambridge Director of Education Innovation and leader of the Educational Reform and Innovation team and colleagues, collaborating with 19 SP participants, sought to capture the state of HE in Syria pre- and post-crisis. This research, co-funded by Cara and The British Council, delivered two reports published in 2019.
  • Phase 2 (2019-20) led by Dr Juliet Millican, Institute of Development Studies Associate Researcher, working with five teams (29 Syrian colleagues) supported by SP-recruited mentors, focused on the role of the Syrian HE sector in addressing some of the societal challenges facing Syria: Cultural Heritage; Education; Energy; Society and Food/Livestock. Study outputs were published in 2020 in a special Syria Programme issue of Education and Conflict Review, Rebuilding Syrian Higher Education for a Stable Future.
  • Phase 3 (2020-21) topics were identified over a two-day Cara Syria Programme Round Table (15-16 February 2020) held in Istanbul with the two rectors and vice-rectors of Al-Sham University and Free Aleppo University and a number of SP participants and UK faculty, to identify and prioritise the challenges facing the emerging HE sector in the non-regime North West of Syria. Five studies were taken forward: ‘Professional Standards Framework for HE teaching in Syrian Context’, ‘Record Systems to Facilitate Mobility and Transition’, ‘A&H Quality Control in Research and Teaching’, ‘Current Discipline-related Knowledge Gaps’, and ‘The Question of Gender in the Syrian Higher Education Context’, led again by Dr Juliet Millican and SP-recruited mentors, with final papers published in the International Journal of Educational Research Open (IJEDRO) in late 2021 and early 2022.
  • Phase 4 (2022-ongoing) builds on the five Phase 3 studies, focusing in particular on the all-encompassing question of quality HE provision, central to which is a quality management and assurance model that places context at its heart – this last being all the more important given the fragile conflict-affected context in which Al Sham University operates. It takes the form of a series of action-research studies to evidence Al Sham compliance with internationally recognised quality standards such as the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in HE (ESG) in the absence of formal institutional accreditation. These studies also explore the role of the arts, humanities and social sciences in increasing discipline diversity, redressing the current gender imbalance amongst both staff and students, and enhancing the university’s engagement with, and response to, local community needs. Anticipated Outputs A number of publications are anticipated including one that captures a replicable model on which other HEIs in conflict or unstable environments will be able to draw.

Syria Programme Research Overview

This UK/Syrian collaboration, co-funded by the University of Kent, aims to capture the evolution of the Syria Programme with two planned outputs: an academic ‘shorts’ publication and a Cara toolkit capturing activities and lessons from previous Cara country programmes on which to draw in the face of future comparable crises, including guidance for partner universities on how to engage with and support future country programmes.

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Ongoing Research select a category

Behavioural patterns in the social space of camps in northwest Syria and their impact on the social and political socialisation of residents

Dr Izdin Elkadour and Dr Obada Altamer.

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Twitter as a potential indicator of depression and suicidal ideation amongst Syrians

Dr Hala Mulki and Mr Issa Edris.

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The environmental and demographic impact of the Kahramanmaraş earthquake on Syrian refugees in Türkiye

Dr Abeer Amin, Ms Fatima Brimo and Dr Ghada Safi.

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The impact of migration on the movement of literary translation from Arabic to Turkish from 2012 and 2022

Dr Ahmad Darwish Moazen and Mr Akeel Shawakh Mohamad.

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Assessing the higher education situation for Syrian students in Türkiye: Challenges and opportunities

Dr Sohayb Abdul Karim, Dr Iman Sarmini and Ms Jamila Alhapet.

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The role of universities in early recovery programmes in northwest Syria: The case of al-Sham University

Dr Yasser Alhusien and Mr Muhammad Bukaei.

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The Study of cholera bacterium types S in the waters of Midanki Lake and Afrin River in northern Syria

Dr Adnan Sennuo and Dr Khaled Jammo.

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The camps in northwest Syria: The next generation of emerging informal settlements

Dr Kifah Mohamad Hsayan, Mr Sultan Jalabi and Dr Ammar Alsamar.

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Characteristics of the labour market affecting women’s ability to access suitable work opportunities: A case study of displaced women in northern Syria

Dr Oqba Alissa, Dr Rafif Idlebi and Dr Saleh Almachi.

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Evaluating soil management practices in conflict-affected areas

Dr Abdulkarim Lakmes, Dr Miassar Alhasan, Mr Mohammad Assaf, Dr Mohammad Gazy Alobaidy and Mr Safwan Alhaiek.

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A study of the investment environment necessary to transform the agricultural sector in northwest Syria into an attractive investment opportunity

Dr Shaher Abdullateef, Dr Rasem Ibesh and Dr Esra Machkor.

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On entrepreneurship in conflict: Evidence from Amuda in Northeast Syria

Dr Musallam Abedtalas, Shinda Ahmad, Khorshid Elika, Medya Farho, Giwan Hamo, Abdul Haleem Sulaiman and Rohat Zada.

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