Dr. Ashrawi holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the American University of Beirut and a PhD in comparative and medieval literature from the University of Virginia, USA. She served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Birzeit University, where she continued to teach until 1995. She also established and headed Birzeit University's Legal Aid Committee. She served as Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research from 1996-1998.
Dr. Ashrawi is a member of the Palestinian National Council and she was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006. In 2009 she was elected as member of the PLO Executive Committee and heads the Department of Culture and Information. She founded a number of bodies and institutions, most importantly the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy- MIFTAH and the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity-AMAN. Dr. Ashrawi is also a member of advisory bodies for several institutions, including the Institute for Palestine Studies and the International Human Rights Commission. Dr. Ashrawi holds many honorary degrees, including local and international awards in the field of women’s issues, peacemaking, international affairs, human rights, and higher education. She has authored poems, short stories, papers, and articles on culture, literature, and Palestinian politics.