DamascusUniversity is the oldest and the most important university among the other five public Syrian universities. It is thought of as the mother university which was established around the beginning of the twentieth century. Neither hesitant nor timid, it has raised the banner of knowledge, science and thought for over nine decades and has been keen on enlightening Arab generations and foreign students. Damascus University, lofty and towering as it is now, had taken careful and deliberate steps in the beginning, then pace accelerated and the universityhas expanded and become more advanced.
The history of any university and that of its homeland are inseparable, for the events and developments in Syria have had a great impact on that history. Hence, modern history has left its marks on Damascus University. Therefore, it is important to have a brief account of the history of this lofty academic edifice summarized as follows:
In 1901, the School of Medicine was founded in Damascus. This nucleus of Damascus University was opened in 1903 andconsisted of the faculties of Medicine and Pharmacy. The Turkish language was the language of instruction.
In 1913, the school of Law was opened in Beirut. Most of the instructors were Arabs and they used Arabicas the language of instruction. The school was moved to Damascus in 1914 and returned to Beirut in 1915. The School of Law returned to Beirut once more by the end of the World War I.
In 1919, the Medical Institute and the School of Law were founded on January 1stand September 2ndrespectively.
In 1923, the School of Law was renamed the Institute of Law. Also, the Institute of Law and that of Medicine, the Arab Academy and the House of Antiquitywere united under the name of the Syrian University. In 1926, the Arab Academy and the House of Antiquity became independent of the university.
In 1928, the HigherLiterary School was founded. Its administration was linked to the university and then it was named the Higher School of Letters and was closed in 1935/1936.
The Era of National Independence
Soon after the end of the French mandate on Syria and with the eviction of the foreign armies, education in Syria started improving. More care and attention were given to it, and consequently it started growing and flourishing. Hence, all the existing educational facilities were given a lot of support and new colleges and institutions were founded. Moreover, all university laws were radically modified to enable the university to receive a growing number of students. New specialties were created in an attempt to catch up with the global development in science and education.
As of 1946, the faculties in the university did not remain limited to the medical and law institutes, but higher colleges and institutes in new specializations were created so that it would be possible to catch up with scientific and cultural progress in the world.Since then and until 1958, the year of the unity between Syria and Egypt and the establishment of the United Arab Republic, the institutions of higher education became as follows:
The Institute of Medicine, the Institute of Law, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Arts, Higher Institute for Teachers, Faculty of Engineering in Aleppo, Faculty of Sharia and the Institute of Business.
In 1958, a new law was issued to organize universities in the Northern and Southern regions of the United Arab Republic, under which the "Syrian University" was renamed "Damascus University" and,consequently, a second university was established in the Northern Region under the name of "Aleppo University". In 1959, a list of regulatory executive rules was issued. Thus, Damascus University included the following faculties:
Faculty of Letters, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Commerce, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Dentistry, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Education and Faculty of Sharia.
Damascus University was also authorized to award postgraduate degrees. During the period Syria was part of the United Arab Republic, the number of university students and faculty members increased; cooperation between universities in the two regions grew, and there was an active exchange of professors and students. After the dissolution of the unity in 1961, there was no noticeable development in the university, except in the university regulations which were adjusted to suit the situation in the country. This situation continued until the outbreak of the 8thof March Revolution. Only then, education flourished and prospered unprecedentedly, particularly following the Corrective Movement in 1970. This was due to the fact that the late president,Hafiz al-Assad, leader of the Corrective Movement, gave special attention to all sectors of higher education hoping they would playa great role in building a greater future for our nation.
Damascus University was very fortunate to receive all this support for the existing faculties. New departments were established; other specialties were continued; intermediate institutes attached to faculties were founded and all these institutions were provided with up-to-date laboratories and equipment. By then, Damascus University comprised:
Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences, Faculty of Economics, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Agriculture, Faculty of Sharia, Faculty of Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Dentistry, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Fine Arts, faculty of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Architecture, Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and the Higher Institute of Administrative Development.
Most institutes and colleges were housed innew buildings, as well.
A number of accommodationunits were set up for students in the Basselal-Assad university dormitories. A number of other units are still under construction, currently. An independent building was also constructed for nurses working in university hospitals.
Graduate studies were given special attention throughthe opening of a number of postgraduate diplomas in various specializations as well as some qualification diplomas. Master's degrees were also offered in most of the specializations besides Ph.D. degrees in some of them. In addition, Damascus University was committed to the principle of using Arabic as a means of instruction in all faculties in order to enhance the Arab national role that it promotes. A number of professors were loaned or seconded to other universities in the Arab world. Hundreds of university books were authored in Arabic by university professors, and students were provided with these books to facilitate their study and research.
This is a quick overview of the history of Damascus University. We, at Damascus University, find that though our accomplishments were below our ambition, we are still looking forward to a brighter and more brilliant future, and to a day in which we can be proud of the great achievements of the scientific research held within the walls of our university.