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Historical Background

Damascus University is not only the largest of five universities in the Syrian Arab Republic, but also the oldest for it traces its beginning back to the early twentieth century. The university has just entered the ninth decade of its life and still continues to raise the banner of thought, science and knowledge without hesitance or apathy. The university is keen for Arab generations from all over the Arab world, as well as foreigners, to draw from its light and drink from its trough. And even though Damascus University today is a towering structure integrating all the faculties, it started its long journey with careful, paced steps and then accelerated its steps to achieve the progress and expansion that it boasts of now.

 The history of any university is inseparable from the history of its country, for the events and chronicles of the latter play a large role in the history of the former. Thus Syrian’s modern history left its mark on the journey of Damascus University.

Hence, a brief account of the history of its life is necessary for us to comprehend the development of this towering knowledge edifice, whose stages can be summarized as follows:

In 1901, the establishment of the Office of the School of Medicine in Damascus was approved and in 1903 this school, which is the nucleus of the University, opened. The school included branches in medicine and pharmacy, and the language of instruction was Turkish.

In 1913, a Law School opened in Beirut, in which most of the teachers were Arabs and the language of instruction was Arabic. Then this school was transferred to Damascus in 1914 just as the School of Medicine moved to Beirut. Then in the last years of the First World War the Law School returned to Beirut.

Following that the Institute of Medicine and the School of Law opened in Damascus, the former at the beginning of January in 1919 and the latter in September of the same year.

In 1923, the School of Law was named the Institute of Law and this institute was linked together with the Institute of Medicine, the Arab Society, and the Center of Arabic Heritage in organization under the name of the Syrian University. Then the Arab Society and the Center of Arabic Heritage separated from the organization in 1926.

In 1928, the School of Higher Literary Studies was established and it immediately connected its administration with the University. In 1929 it became the School of Letters, which closed in 1935/1936.

 

The Era of Independence

When the nightmare of the mandate was driven out of Syria and the country was vacated by the foreign armies, education breathed a sigh of relief, and this facility began to receive increased interest and be given careful attention. Soon a new life cropped up in the facility, leading to its growth and development. Its scope was expanded, its area extended and its brilliance increased. The existing educational institutions were strengthened and new faculties and institutes were created. Just as the University was modified drastically to enable it to receive increasing numbers of students and new areas of study were created in order to catch up with scientific and cultural progress.

Then starting in 1946, the University was no longer limited to the Institutes of Medicine and Law, but rather faculties and higher institutions were created in other subjects. Thus, until 1958 when Egypt and Syria united as the United Arab Repulic, the institutes for higher education were as follows:

The Institute of Medicine, the Institute of Law, the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Letters, the Higher Institute for Teachers, the Faculty of Engineering in Aleppo, the Faculty of Shari’a and the Institute of Commerce.

In 1958, a new law was created to regulate the universities in the northern and southern regions of the United Arab Republic. This led to changing the name of “the Syrian University” to “Damascus University” and to the creation of a second northern university called “the University of Aleppo.” And with the issuance of the regulations of this law in 1959, Damascus University came to be composed of the following faculties: the Faculty of Letters, the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Commerce, the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Dentistry, the Faculty of Engineering, the Faculty of Education, and the Faculty of Shari’a. The University also preserved its right to grant degrees in graduate studies.

In the era of unity, the number of students and faculty members rose just as cooperation between the universities in the two regions increased. Therefore, they activated between them student and faculty exchanges. After the unity was dissolved in 1961 and in the era of separation following, no remarkable development was made in the university affairs except in the area of regulations, which were adjusted to cope with the situation in the country. University education continued in this state until the March 8th Revolution of 1963. For higher education in Syria, especially after the reform movement in 1970, witnessed care and prosperity as it had never known before. President Hafez al-Assad, leader of the corrective movement, accorded special attention to all sectors of higher education and care that match the large role and high hopes that he held in building a better future for our people and nation. And the luck of Damascus University from all of that was great and included support for the existing faculties, the creation of new departments, the completion of other disciplines, the creation of junior institutes attached to the faculties, and the endeavor to equip these institutions with the latest laboratories and tools. Thus Damascus University came to consist of:

The Faculty of Letters and Humanities, the Faculty of Economics, the Faculty of Education, the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Agriculture, the Faculty of Shari’a, the Faculty of Pharmacy, the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Dentistry, the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Fine Arts, the Faculty of Civil Engineering, the Faculty of Architecture, the Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, the Higher Institute of Administrative Development. Most of these colleges and institutes received new buildings.

In addition, a number of housing units for students were created in the University City of Basil al-Assad, and there are several others under construction. Also, a separate building rededicated to accommodating nurses working in the university hospitals was built.

This is on top of the fact that special care has been given to graduate studies as seen by the opening of a number of postgraduate diplomas in different disciplines and a diploma of qualification. Also a master’s degree was opened in most disciplines and a PhD in some of them. Besides that, Damascus University has remained committed to the indisputable principle of the use of the Arabic language in teaching in various studies in order to enhance the role of the Arab nation, which it raises. The university has supplied a number of universities in the Arab world with professors on loan, teaching representatives, or visiting lecturers, just as its teachers have published hundreds of textbooks in Arabic and placed them in the hands of students to facilitate their studies.

And after…

This is but a quick overview of the life of Damascus University, which finds that their achievements were without ambition. For it is still looking forward to a brighter and more glamorous future and awaits the day when it can be proud of what the scientific research produced in its midst, whose achievements will be great.



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