The internationalization of higher education institutions (HEIs) in Palestine has become embedded in the universities’ policies, strategies and institutional-level discourses. Most Palestinian universities have started formulating and implementing their internationalization objectives in their policies and strategies with diverse aims that focus on enhancing institutional reputations and competitiveness, improving student and staff capacities, and bolstering the role of the universities in international fora.
Birzeit University (BZU) is one of the first Palestinian HEIs to embrace the discourse of internationalization, embedding it in the university’s 2017-2022 strategy, where it stresses the importance of internationalization among four other priorities:
“encouraging exposure to worldwide experiences and practices to create open, inclusive de-centralized knowledge platforms that can contribute to the internationalization of the university.”
BZU seeks to achieve its internationalization goals as part of its strategic objective, “community engagement embedded within the university culture and practices with active contribution to sustainable development,” through partnerships and cooperation with local and international institutions.
The following offices and programs are the driving force behind the university’s continuous internationalization efforts;
Through the External Academic Relations Office, which manages the growing links of the university with the external academic world and its increasingly influential participation in local, regional and international fora, Birzeit University has been able to establish academic relations with regional and international institutions of higher education to stimulate joint scientific research and promote academic and student exchange, as well as spur the participation of faculty members in curricula development and academic programs and projects. It has more than 500 academic cooperation agreements that include faculty and student exchange programs (undergraduate and graduate students); joint research projects; student scholarship programs; joint course development; joint seminars, workshops and conferences; and summer internship programs.
BZU is affiliated with number of regional and international associations and networks, such as the Association of Arab Universities (AARU), the Federation of the Universities of the Islamic World (FUIW), the International Association of Universities (IAU), the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean Academic Network (BSEMAN), Mediterranean Universities Union (UNIMED), the Francophonie University Association (AUF), Téthys Euro-Mediterranean Network Univerisities (Téthys), and the Global Campus of Human Rights. These memberships help to establish fruitful, long-term academic partnerships that strengthen the university’s leading role nationally and globally.
In 1990, BZU launched the PAS program as a fully accredited and recognized study program world-wide. PAS offers international students the opportunity to combine their studies of the Arabic language with social science classes about Palestine and Arab world at Birzeit University.
Beyond the barriers of space with its lingual and cultural geography and economic and political contexts, knowledge is universally human. For language is neither syntax nor culture, but the tool that shapes knowledge, and the knowledge that shapes the language.
Since 1981, BZU has been organizing the International Summer Camp, which aims to achieve BZU’s mission, build generations that are open to the world, provide an opportunity for cultural exchange, introduce the Palestinian cause, and reinforce the Palestinian core values of caring, respect, peace, and acceptance of the other. The camp focuses on community-oriented volunteer projects in schools, municipalities, and civil society organizations and introduces participants to several geographical places in Palestine. The camp activities include voluntary work and visits to Palestinian cities, villages, refugee camps, and other Palestinian universities. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity for foreign participants to meet Palestinian families, political and community leaders, as well as Palestinian academics.
Birzeit University Joint Ventures
BZU is active and dynamic in different joint programs and projects with local and international institutions related to the academic and professional development of the university’s students and staff. One of the major programs that enables students and staff to study, teach or train abroad is the Erasmus+ program, a European Union (EU) student exchange program that was launched in 2014. Erasmus+ is a chance for BZU students and staff to gain vital international experience, and develop new skills and professional networks. BZU has 47 partners in 19 EU countries in the International Credit Mobility (ICM) scheme. More than 300 Birzeit University students and staff members have benefited from this program in the last years.
Birzeit University in International Rankings
Birzeit University has always held a prominent position as the foremost higher education institution in Palestine and one of the leading universities in the Arab world. BZU has been ranked as one of the top 2.7 percent of universities worldwide by QS World University Rankings in its 2019 edition. The university has also been ranked first in Palestine for the sixth consecutive year in the Webometrics Google Scholar Citations rankings.