Birzeit University’s Institute of Environmental and Water Studies is a Local and Global Leader
In response to the diverse needs of Palestinian society, Birzeit University has created specialized institutes and centers to deepen academic knowledge, thus fulfilling labor market needs. This has led to the establishment of 12 institutes and centers for scientific research. These institutes and centers provide training, workshops, professional skills, post-secondary courses and Master’s programs. They facilitate community discussions on pertinent topics in their fields and conduct policy-oriented research that is instrumental in the development of the Palestinian society.
The Birzeit University Institute of Environmental and Water Studies is one of these community outreach programs, offering two MA programs:
- The Master’s program in Water and Environmental Engineering, which admits holders of Bachelor’s degrees in Civil, Chemical or Mechanical engineering, or any specialization that the program deems appropriate.
- The Master’s program in Water and Environmental Sciences, which admits holders of Bachelor’s degrees in the natural sciences (Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Geology and Environmental Sciences), agricultural sciences, or any specialization that the program deems appropriate.
Institute director Maher Abu Madi said that the idea of establishing this institute goes back to 1996, when it was started as a training program to build capacity among those working in the water sector, in collaboration with Dutch academic institutions. The idea then developed to offering an MA in water engineering under the full supervision of Dutch academic staff.
Abu Madi says that Birzeit University has delegated three of its academic staff to seek their doctorate studies - Maher Abu Madi, Omar Zimmo and Nidal Mahmoud - and all have received their doctorates in water engineering, and returned to Birzeit University to supervise the Master's program, instead of the Dutch staff. These efforts culminated in 2001 with the establishment of the Institute of Water Studies. Finally, in 2007 the Institute of Environmental and Water Studies was established as the fruit of cooperation since 1996 between Birzeit University and UNESCO-IHE.
Since the founding of the institute, the university more than 150 students have attained Master's degrees in water sciences and engineering, out of which ten have completed their doctoral studies in America, Japan and Europe. This has opened communication channels with international universities and institutes specialized in water and urban drainage, treatment of liquid and solid wastes and water uses in agriculture. Abu Madi has announced the institute’s intention to kick-off a specialized graduate program that will attract international, Arab and Palestinians researchers.
The institute conducts many activities and makes societal contributions, key among them its Master’s programs, research projects, capacity building carried out in the fields of water and the environment, and consultancies on behalf of government and institutions in the water sector such as the Water Authority and the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees.
The institute’s mission statement is “contributing to environmental protection and improving the utilization of water resources through education, training and research within the framework of local and international partnerships.”
The Institute aspires to develop more specializations in environment and water disciplines, to be an academic incubator for exceptional research, and provide qualitative and quantitative consultancies for the Palestinian water sector.
In 2014, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and its Scientific Research Council invited researchers to participate in a competition for centers of excellence in scientific research in Palestinian universities. The Birzeit University Institute of Environmental and Water Studies was the only center nominated to win locally, and is now waiting for a global assessment.