Education allows our people to make a living anywhere
Dr Khalil Hindi, President of Birzeit University, recently visited the UK as part of a study group of Palestinian university presidents led by the Palestinian Minister of Education and Higher Education, Lamis Al-Alami. The purpose of the tour was to explore the links in the UK between business and academia in order to develop partnerships in research. At present Palestinian universities are teaching rather than research - led institutions. The visit also provided an opportunity for Dr Hindi to remind people here of the difficulties faced by universities in Gaza and the West Bank.
The participation rate in higher education for young people in Gaza and the West Bank is now 30 per cent and rising and the major source of funding for these students is through fees. As Dr Hindi reports, “Eighty per cent of the university sector consists of ‘public’ universities, which are not for profit and are kept at arm’s length by the government, although eligible for government subsidies – which hardly ever materialise.”
Another factor affecting the daily life of universities is the restrictions on movement around the country by Palestinians. According to Dr Hindi, Birzeit University’s aspiration to be a national university “in the sense of having students from all over the country, and including a representative cross-section of the community” is constantly frustrated by roadblocks, checkpoints and ‘dismemberment of the country’. The restrictions also limit the ability of the university to recruit academics from the UK and elsewhere as permits are generally refused by the Israeli authorities.
It is encouraging to read that despite the ever present problems, Birzeit continues to flourish and is at present involved in two major projects with European and Lebanese universities.
(This is a summary of an article, dated 22nd March 2012, in the Times Higher Education Supplement written by Matthew Reisz. For a full account click here)