How does it work?

Zeytun has identified a number of obstacles to closer academic relations as envisioned in this initiative and is determined to challenge them. As its key objectives it has therefore selected four of the most pressing issues in academic relations between Europe and the MENA region: 1) exchange of knowledge and ideas, 2) intercultural networking, 3) training of academics skills, and 4) cooperation between students from Europe and the MENA-region.

These objectives are pursued by an exchange program consisting of 1) ancillary course, 2) two so-called exchange visits, and 3) a study project. A complete program lasts for approximately one academic semester.

Ancillary course

The ancillary course is either a graduate or an undergraduate course offered to participants by the institutions involved in Zeytun. The first key component of this course is a critical study of the country and region to be visited, as well as of the central theme of the exchange. This central theme is chosen in accordance with developments in Europe and the MENA region in order to maintain a close link to the real world.

The second key component of the ancillary course is the training of academic skills of participating students. During this training the students are, among others, prepared for writing academic papers and delivering presentations in the context of conferences, seminars and similar kind of gatherings.

Exchange visits

The key part of the exchange programs are the visits of the participants to one another’s country. These are the moments at which the participants of both sides actually get to meet their counterparts and to study the host country on location. The exchange visits consist of an academic program and a political, social, and cultural program.

The academic program is, as the name suggests, the academic component of the exchange visit. Its primary aim is to make the participants jointly study the theme and topics of the exchange program through a combination of educational methods, such as lectures, assignments, and debates

The second part of the exchange visit consists of a political, social, and cultural program (PSC program). This part of the program offers students the opportunity to explore the facts on the ground in both countries and consists of visits to governmental institutions (parliament, ministries), political parties, NGOs, media outlets, religious institutions and cultural sites. Students get to meet with representatives of different institutions and organizations, listen to what they have to tell and engage in discussions with them.

Study Project

The study project is the third key component of the exchange program. It requires students of both sides to work together on an end product, which may have the form of a research paper, a magazine, or a short documentary. This end product is meant to contribute to an issue in both academic and public debate. The form and topic of the study project may vary depending on the preferences of instructors and capabilities of students.


Exchange programs have been realized with the School of International Relations and the University of Tehran in Iran, the University of Kalamoon (Deir Atiyah) in Syria, the Yemen College for Middle Eastern Studies (Sana’a) in Yemen, the University of Kurdistan-Hewler and the American University of Iraq Sulaimani in Iraq, and the École de Gouvernance et d'Économie in Morocco.

Zeytun aspires to expand its activities to several other countries in the MENA region, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, and the Palestinian Territories.

Number of participants

The number of participants per institution in each exchange is ten, implying a total number of twenty participants per exchange program. The delegations are accompanied by one or two lecturers of the participating institutions.