The Urban Impact: The Education System
The Urban Impact of Yarmouk University
The founding of Yarmouk University in 1976 impacted Irbid just as or even more profoundly than the arrival of Syrian refugees in 2012. It was the city’s first major anchor institution, and as college attendance rates in Jordan increased by 2,500% between 1970 and 1996 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2003), Irbid’s population spiked when young people arrived to attend classes, their families followed to keep them under one roof, and others from across Irbid governorate ventured into the city to find work in the expanding construction, manufacturing, and market sectors.
The university had profound impact on gender too, with women finding their first opportunity to spend time independently of parental and male oversight and move toward self-supportive careers, thereby undermined traditional family beliefs that women should stay home (Kaya, 2010; Ghannam, 2002; Wikan, 2008). By 1998, women were in the majority at Yarmouk University (Ibid).
However, today many of Irbid’s residents—low- and middle-income Jordanians, Syrians, and other migrants—speak about Yarmouk University like it is a faraway place. Its tall gates represent the high cost of fees that are completely infeasible for all of these groups to pass through.