Academics and higher education specialists from across the UK and Palestine gathered on 7th March at the National Education Union headquarters at Hamilton House in London to discuss how to support access to higher education in Palestine. In a one-day workshop, Overcoming Barriers, Building Links: Supporting Access to Higher Education in Palestine, co-hosted by Fobzu and Dr Mark Griffiths (Newcastle University), participants heard directly from Palestinian academics about the challenges facing staff and students at universities in Palestine and discussed ways to further academic collaboration. 


Speaking in the morning session, Dr Rania Jawad, Director of the Institute of Women’s Studies and lecturer in English Literature at Birzeit University, spoke about the growing restrictions imposed by Israeli military authorities. Commenting on recent measures, she said, 


A few months ago, a colonial policy of the Israeli military went into effect that is premised on the basic logic that the Israeli army has authority over decision-making on the student and faculty bodies at Palestinian universities, as well as who can visit and have interactions with Palestinian higher education institutions. Who qualifies (and who does not) in Israel’s category of the  “international/foreigner” targets and isolates Palestinians and their institutions, in addition to anyone in solidarity with them challenging Israel’s settler colonial subjugation.


Among other panellists joining Dr Jawad were Dr Samia Al-Botmeh, from the Department of Economics at Birzeit University, Dr Mark Griffiths and Issam Younis, Director of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. Mr Younis, who had previously served as a board member of Al Azhar University in Gaza and the Higher Education Council in Palestine described the range of barriers to education in the Gaza Strip and the threats faced by students and staff, which have greatly increased since the imposition of the blockade in 2007.


Having discussed the current challenges, the focus of the workshop turned to ways UK academics can build links with colleagues in Palestine. Contributions came from a range of speakers representing institutions working in the field of higher education in the UK and Palestine discussing successful models of academic collaboration and exchange.


Commenting on the day’s proceedings, co-organiser Dr Mark Griffiths said,


We must keep a spotlight on the challenges facing Palestinian academia, especially the ways that Israel’s occupation further marginalises scholars and institutions from a global intellectual community. It is on us also to explore and share good practice, examples of the ways that academics from other places can support and learn from Palestinian educators. There are many avenues of collaboration: that was made clear today and I look forward to building on this workshop to advance partnership between UK and Palestinian higher education.


This workshop was co-organised by Fobzu as part of its Building Higher Education Links programme, which works for the full and equal participation of Palestinian higher education in the international academic community.

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