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 Middle East: 1) exchange of knowledge and views, 2) intercultural networking, 3) development of independent and transparent academics, and 4) cooperation between European and Middle Eastern higher education institutions.
These objectives are pursued by an exchange program consisting of an ancillary course, two exchange visits, and a virtual platform. A complete program lasts for approximately one academic semester.
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 Middle East, or the world as a whole, 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.
The two exchange visit make up the core of the program and are composed of an educational program, a political and socio-cultural program and an academic workshop.
The educational program constitutes the core of the exchange and is intended to make participants specialize in the central theme of the exchange program through a combination of educational methods, among which lectures, essays, papers, simulations, and assignments. A key feature is the linking of a European student to a Middle Eastern student. These mixed pairs are instructed to stay together throughout the program and to work on essays, papers, or assignments. Through this approach of coupling it is ensured that the students become more receptive to the experience of exchange and cooperation.
The educational program consists of two parts that correspond with the two exchange visits. In the first part, the focus is on defining theoretical frameworks for the study of the central theme and to start preparations for the second part of the program. In this second part, the theoretical frameworks are applied in analyses of particular cases related to Europe or the Middle East. At the end of the program, the students are expected to share their findings through either presentations or simulation games.
In addition to the above, the participants are offered a political and socio-cultural program during the exchange visit to actually provide them the opportunity to experience and study the host country on location. This program includes visits to governmental institutions (ministries, parliament), political parties, NGOs, religious institutions and cultural sites.
The workshop is the second academic activity of the exchange program and is organized during (at least) one of the two exchange visits. Its aim is to engage academicians of institutions involved in Zeytun, including the lecturers that accompany the participating students, more actively in the exchange program and to encourage them to interact and cooperate with each other. The workshop has the same central theme as the educational program and is also attended by the participating students.
Virtual platform: Zeytun.org
Zeytun.org is the final key component of the exchange program and is primarily intended as a means to maintain and develop relations built during the exchange visits. It is a virtual platform designed according to the concept of Web 2.0, which refers to the recent trend of user-driven, interactive applications on the internet, such as weblogs, wikis, and social networking websites. Zeytun.org employs, among others, blogs, forums, member pages, private messaging, and photo galleries to improve the interconnectedness and interactivity between participants. At the same time, it functions as Zeytun’s portal to the outside world, providing news and information on its activities and publishing reports.
Given the academic nature of the Zeytun exchange program, Zeytun.org also functions as an online academic magazine and provides opportunity for participants to publish articles for a broader public.
Exchange projects are currently established with the School of International Relations (Tehran) and the University of Tehran in Iran, the University of Kalamoon (Deir Atiyah) in Syria and the Yemen College for Middle Eastern Studies (Sana’a) in Yemen. In addition, a pilot program has been realized in Northern Iraq in November 2008 with the aim of exploring the political, social and academic landscape as well as the possibilities for an exchange program with partners in this region.
The partnerships with the institutions mentioned above will be continued during the proposed period of three years. It is intended to establish a similar partnership with an academic institution in Northern Iraq. Zeytun aspires to expand its activities to Saudi Arabia and Egypt and to start preparations for expansion to Jordan and the Palestinian Territories within the proposed period.
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.