This paper stems from a 12-month collaborative enquiry between a group of Syrian academics in exile in Turkey and academics from the University of Cambridge into the state of Syrian Higher Education after the onset of the conflict in 2011. The purpose of this paper is to draw on 19 open-ended interviews with exiled Syrian academics; two focus groups; mapping and timeline exercises; and 117 interviews collected remotely by collaborating Syrian academics with former colleagues and students who were still living inside Syria at the time of data collection. The findings of the research suggest that Syrian HE after 2011 was fragmented across regions; in some cases non-existent, and in others deemed to be in a state of reform in order to meet student needs. Key issues that emerged from this work are human rights’ abuses directed against academics and students including the detainment, purging and kidnapping of academics, an increased militarisation of university life and a substantive loss of academic and human capital.