A history of Birzeit University

Historical Background

In 1924, Nabiha Nasser (1891-1951), a member of a pioneering family of Palestinian educators founded a private school at Birzeit. By 1961 the school had evolved into Birzeit College, teaching associate degrees in arts and science and enabled students to transfer to universities in Arab countries and elsewhere to complete BA degrees. 

Following the Israeli military occupation in 1967 with its accompanying privations and travel restrictions, Birzeit recognised the urgent need to increase the higher education opportunities available inside the West Bank. In 1972 it introduced 4 year B.A. degree courses in arts and science. .

In 1975, Birzeit College changed its name to Birzeit University and became the first Arab University to be established in Palestine. In July 1976 the first cohort of students graduated and work started on the new campus outside Birzeit town. After Faculties of Commerce and Economics were established in 1978, and Engineering in 1979, the university started a few graduate programmes and in 1994 set up a faculty of Graduate studies, followed 10 years later in 2004 by the Faculty of Law and Public Administration.

Times were extremely difficult between 1979 -1992 when the University was closed 60 percent of the time. In addition members of the Birzeit University community suffered a range of violations at the hands of the Israeli authorities, including imprisonment, torture and travel restrictions.  Despite this,   the University kept going by holding classes clandestinely in the homes of professors and students and the offices of local organisations.

The University Today

Today Birzeit, as one of eight Palestinian Universities in the Palestinian Autonomous Areas, is a thriving institution, with over 4,000 students and staffed by more than 650 faculty members and employees. The university is dedicated to preparing young Palestinian men and women for responsible and fruitful leadership in the community. In particular it discourages the elitism associated with higher education by maintaining a strong link with the wider Palestinian community.