My research in Syria examines young Syrians’ perceptions of recent higher education reforms, focusing on their perceptions of access to higher education and opportunities for employment.

Data comes from a set of interviews conducted with Syrians aged 18-32 in 2009 and follow up interviews with selected respondents in 2010. Interviews suggest that youth perceptions of recent educational reforms differ by wealth and gender characteristics. Specifically, the recent reforms are widely seen as disproportionately benefiting the wealthy due to the introduction of private forms of higher education. While young women are more likely to celebrate expanded access to four-year universities, young men are more likely to criticize the reforms due to what they perceive as increased labor market insecurity.

My interviews are used to construct a typology of youth responses to higher education expansion by theorizing how social and cultural norms intersect to systematically shape youth expectations and frustrations concerning higher education.  I argue that the failure of the Syrian state to link expanded higher education to secure employment in the recent era has contributed to a de-legitimization of the Syrian state as a whole.