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In October 2009, the ACA member organisation from Spain, Universidad.es, signed on behalf of the Spanish government an agreement with the Ministry of Higher Education of Syria. The goal of the collaborative arrangement is to facilitate each year the enrolment of up to 50 master’s and doctoral-level students from Syria in Spanish universities. The effort is part of a larger Syrian government initiative to expand the number of advanced degree holders in that country. Before reaching the agreement with Spain, Syria already administered a scholarship program that provided qualified students the opportunity to pursue graduate-level education in such countries as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
As a result of the Spanish-Syrian agreement, 21 students were officially welcomed to Spain on 12 July 2010 by the Spanish minister of foreign affairs, Miguel Ángel Moratinos. Most of the Syrian participants are already university teachers in their home country, but are now returning to the classroom themselves to complete graduate degrees in 14 different universities across Spain, in fields ranging from engineering, chemistry, and biotechnology to linguistics. The students were provided with preliminary Spanish language training under the auspices of the Instituto Cervantes in Damascus. Prior to beginning their formal studies in Spain, they are now undergoing intensive language preparation through the end of August at the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo. Both national partners hope to scale up the program to the full complement of 50 students by the start of the 2011/12 academic year.