Centre to set national criteria for student admission to university

The Syrian government has agreed to establish a centre to set national standards and tests for educational qualifications and university admission, and additional tests for examining graduates’ employability skills.

Examinations will be undertaken for admission to all institutions of higher education – public and private – and for measuring candidates’ performance and differentiating between equally able candidates. There will also be faculty-based tests to measure the creative and scientific capabilities, skills and attitudes of students.

Abdul Razzaq Sheikh Issa, the minister of higher education, said: "The centre will be responsible for choosing suitable students for all faculties according to an additional criterion along with the marks gained by students in the baccalaureates.”

The Measurement and Evaluation Centre (MEC) will be affiliated to Syria's Ministry of Higher Education.

At present, only medical and physical tests are carried out before admission to faculties of nursing and physical education, and there are tests of creative and artistic ability for admission to faculties of architecture, fine and applied arts and music, according to the 2012 university admissions guide.

Official figures show that Syria's unemployment rate is about 16% for people under 30, double the total for all ages, according to a 2011 report published on the Al Bawaba website.

To help universities produce graduates who can be integrated into the job market, the centre will also measure and evaluate higher education outcomes including the relevance of skills acquired by graduates to those required by the labour market.

Science and technology expert Ahmad Abdul Kader Habil, a professor at the General Commission for Scientific and Agricultural Research in Damascus, welcomed the decision to set up the centre.

"Implementation of this initiative will lead to enhancement of the quality of university graduates," Habil told University World News.

"The results of graduate employability tests will provide an ideal guide for universities in formulating evidence-based policy initiatives for developing the scientific workforce needed for development, preparing a curriculum that meets future demand for science and technology skills and promoting university-business research collaboration," Habil said.

Ammar Fallaha, an IT expert and president of the Automata4 Group, which annually employs about half of the top 10 graduates of the informatics engineering faculty at the University of Aleppo, told University World News:

“Any initiatives to improve higher education quality and promote science development in Syria would be greatly welcomed. I hope to see the MEC helping to prepare a research-oriented generation that uses knowledge to solve current problems in Syria."

None of the six public universities or the 17 private universities in Syria is ranked among the 25 most scientifically productive institutions in the Muslim world or in the top 500 universities of the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

In an effort to improve the world ranking of Syrian universities, the government is trying to increase the visibility of the content of their websites. To do this the ministry has established a database of CVs of teaching staff that includes data on their activities, academic achievements and professional research, publications, books written and translated, grants and awards.

Habil said: "Besides helping in improving the international position of Syrian universities, especially in webometrics and web-based popularity rankings, this database will enhance cooperation among higher education and scientific research communities at the national, regional and international levels."