President Abuhjiileh keynote speaker at UNIMED General Assembly 2019

Abdullatif Abuhijleh, Birzeit University’s president, served as a keynote speaker during the 2019 General Assembly of the Mediterranean Universities Union (UNIMED) at Link Campus University in Rome, Italy.

Addressing the General Assembly’s theme “Shaping the Mediterranean from Cooperation to Integration,” Abuhijelh gave a special lecture on the challenges that education and research in basic sciences and humanities in the Euro-Mediterranean region are faced with.

The UNIMED General Assembly is an annual event attended by rectors, presidents and their representatives to exchange views and solidify policies and strategies to build new cooperation projects, initiatives, and activities within the Mediterranean region.

Abuhijleh spoke in the session titled “New Challenges for the Academic Cooperation in the Mediterranean Region” which tackled the developments in the Mediterranean educational systems and discussed efforts to better integrate the region’s universities into a global academic and scientific cooperation network, focusing on eLearning and Open Educational Resources (OER).

In his lecture, Abuhjileh emphasized Birzeit University’s long recognition of the importance of integrating the humanities with the basic sciences. He outlined the university’s ongoing efforts to educate its students in both disciplines, aiming to develop transversal skills such as critical thinking and creativity and providing students with the opportunity to build their personal development on a solid basis.

“At our university,” Abuhijleh explained, “we have pioneered a number of unique interdisciplinary academic programs that transmit insights that are gained from the humanities so they may bear on the study of issues and problems in science-related fields.”

Abuhijleh cited as an example the university’s master’s program in public health, offered by the Institute of Community and Public Health, which goes beyond the biomedical determinants of public health and considers also the important social, ethical, cultural, and economic factors that affect the well-being of individuals and of society.

Praising the long-standing partnership with universities from Europe and the Mediterranean region, Abuhjileh called upon Birzeit University’s European partners―who are currently working on the new programing period (2021-2027) of Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programs―to continue their support of projects and academic programs that integrate basic sciences with humanities, thereby helping students and staff acquire relevant skills, deepen their knowledge and understanding of other cultures, and open up to new perspectives and views.

During his visit, Abuhijleh also discussed cooperation possibilities with Link Campus University in academia, student and staff exchange, and scientific research.

UNIMED, founded in 1991, is an association of universities that are located in the Mediterranean region. Comprising 130 universities from countries north and south of the Mediterranean Sea, UNIMED is active in various scientific fields; it aims to develop research and education in the Euro-Mediterranean area and to contribute to scientific, cultural, social and economic cooperation.