Scottish university to support Syrian reform

Thursday 29 March 2012

The University of St Andrews is to expand the work of its Centre for Syrian Studies (CSS) to foster a better understanding of Syria and carry out independent research which it’s hoped can help drive much-needed reform in the troubled country.

Supported by a generous donation from the Asfari Foundation, the St Andrews Centre will act as a hub for academic interaction, research and education on contemporary Syria at a critical and enormously difficult time in the country’s history.

St Andrews and the Asfari Foundation are also to offer new scholarships to talented young Syrians in the hope of empowering them to lead change in their own country. Internships will be offered to young British and Syrian people to foster exchange and the study of Syria.

The Centre for Syrian Studies at St Andrews became the world’s first research centre on Syria when it opened in 2006. It was established with the help of a donation from the Asfari Foundation which is now to give an additional £322,000 over three years to expand the work of the CSS.

The Asfari Foundation is a British-registered charity established by British-Syrian businessman Mr Ayman Asfari.

Under the new agreement, the St Andrews Centre will:

  • Conduct high quality, independent, objective research on Syria at a crucial time of the country’s development.
  • Provide quality graduate education in the UK on Syria for UK students and for talented young Syrians, accepted on merit.
  • Promote research that will help Syrians advance positive, non-violent, secular, democratic transition to a Syria under rule of law based on well-informed research.
  • Bring Syrian and UK scholars together in St Andrews for academic interaction.

“Knowledge and research about Syria which is made freely and widely available to those interested in the country’s development is more important than ever if the international community is to help Syria to find a peaceful and democratic future,” said Professor Raymond Hinnebusch, Director of the CSS at St Andrews.

“We hope that a better understanding of Syria will improve not only academic understanding, but will also help policy makers, the media and the international aid community to make more informed decisions and judgments.”

St Andrews Vice-Principal Stephen Magee said:

“We guard our academic independence jealously at St Andrews. We are delighted that through our Centre for Syrian Studies and School of International Relations we have the opportunity to contribute independent academic insight which may help drive positive and lasting change in this troubled country.”

The University and the Asfari Foundation intend that the CSS should become a “go-to” independent research centre on Syria, providing expert analysis and stimulating debate and reform.

The University will admit six Syrian Scholars to complete Masters programmes in economic, social, political and other fields relevant to Syria. Their education will be jointly funded by St Andrews and the Foundation, on the understanding that they contribute to the development of Syria using the knowledge acquired in Scotland. Funding will also be provided for a PhD student.

Internships will be offered to young Syrian and British students in Dubai, St Andrews or Syria (if the situation allows). There will also be resources to allow three Syrian senior fellows to spend time at the St Andrews centre to conduct research, give lectures and teach students.

Mr Ayman Asfari said:

“The appalling situation in Syria is of the greatest concern to the Asfari Foundation. Syria is on the brink of great change. For the country to make the transition to a more democratic and just society under the rule of law, much work needs to be done, both inside Syria and abroad.

“We believe that bringing UK and Syrian scholars together at the world-class University of St Andrews will engender ideas and knowledge that will feed into Syria’s development and the understanding of Syria generally.

“We also support the Syrian Studies Centre so it can educate a new generation of British experts on Syria as well as Syrian scholars that can contribute to the development of their country. I am very pleased at the continued partnership with St Andrews and look forward to the work to be done by the Centre over the next three years.”


Notes to Editors

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews

Contact Niall Scott, Director of Corporate Communications on 01334 462244/2530, 0771 122 3062 or email [email protected]
Ref: (Syria 29/03/12)

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