University Graduation Ceremony Held for 1999/2000 Followed by Open Day for Alumni

Eight hundred and ninety-seven students graduated on Wednesday and Thursday from Birzeit University marking 25 years since the first graduation ceremony. Thousands of people from all over Palestine attended the two graduation ceremonies which were addressed by speakers from the University and Palestinian personalities. Four hundred and fifty-three male students and 444 female students graduated this year. 

A total of 4750 students were enrolled at the university for the academic year 1999/2000. There are 292 teaching staff at the university and 375 other employees.

On Wednesday evening, the Minister of Higher Education attend representing the President of Palestine. He passed messages of congratulations to the students and spoke about various plans of the Ministry to uplift the standards of higher education in the country.

Birzeit University President,Dr. Hanna Nasir stressed the philosophy of the university : liberal and progressive and open. He said that this has been the philosophy since the Birzeit started as a small school in 1924. When it developed into a university, it retained these principles.

Nasir spoke about the issue of difference of opinions within the University community. He referred to the violence that erupted during Mr. Jospins visit due to his earlier remarks about the heroic freedom fighters in South Lebanon . He said that although many people inside and outside the University were happy about that incident, the university asserts its policy that there is no place for violence on its campus. He said that the debate conducted in one of the lecture halls with Jospin is a model of how a University community could deal with sensitive topics.

Dr. Nasir expressed regret that two university students drowned this year and one an ex employee was shot and killed by Israeli fire during a demonstration last May for the release of prisoners for the Israeli jails.

Dr. Nasir gave special mention of the honorary members of the Board of Trustees who have recently supported building plans in the university. Amongst these were Mr. Mohammed Imran Bamieh and Mr. Walid Kayali for supporting the physical education building. He also mentioned Dr. Naseeb Shaheen - a member of the Board who is supporting the construction of a graduate building. There was mention of the granting of an honorary doctorate to another honorary member of the Board of Trustees – Hasib Sabbagh who visited the University last April and officiated the opening of the Diana Tamari Sabbagh Center of Arts and National Heritage which was constructed in memory of Mr. Sabbagh’s late wife

Finally Dr Nasir stressed the importance of independence of a university and said that this is the well known model that has proved its success and urged the Minster and Ministry of Higher education to subscribe to these ideas. Dr. Nasir said that even if the Palestine Authority provide financial support ot the Universities independence should be guaranteed for the good of higher education.

Also during the ceremony of the first day, Dr. Camille Mansour, Director of the Institute of Law received the Award of 2000 for the excellent work done at the Institute. In his response, Mansour spoke about the importance of the rule of law in Palestinian society. The complete text of Dr mansour's address can be found in Arabic on the Institute of Law website at

This year marks the 25th anniversary since the first graduation from the university. Since the first graduation ceremony of 1975/1976 a total of 8493 students have graduated with degrees from the university. Dr. Darwish Nazzal, chairman of the Borad of Trustees at Birzeit University, told the graduates during the ceremony on Thursday night, "You have now finished your studies and your lectures. You will be going out to the world to look for work. It is important that you all keep up with developments in other parts of the world, particularly in the field of technology. The University has given you a good basis and taught you the values of democracy, freedom of expression and of opinion."

On Thursday, Professor Ivar Ekeland former president of Dauphine University in Paris and now professor of mathematics at the same University was awarded the 2000 Special Unviersity Award for his distinguished services to the university. Ekeland initiated the mathematical economics programs at Birzeit in cooperation with a consortium of French Universities and the French Consulate in Jerusalem (see Birzeit News story at He is now working to help in the establishment of a new program in statistics.

Because Professor Ekeland could not leave France at this time, Patrick Marsaa Poey from the French Consulate in Jerusalem received the award on his behalf and read a message that was sent by Professor Ekeland, "I am very grateful for this great honour. I share it with all those who have made the program in Mathematics Applied to Economics a success: the faculty and administration in Birzeit, the colleagues from France, and especially the students in the program. I wish them every success on the occasion of their graduation. My wishes extend also to the university of Birzeit. May it continue to educate its members and students in academic excellence and in the fundamental values of an open society. Throughout the ages, universities have kept alive freedoms which were denied by their environment. This is precisely what the university of Birzeit has done in the past thirty years. I hope the example it has set will be understood and followed, and I am very proud to be associated with it."

Dr. Hanna Nasir, said of the new program in Mathematical Economics "This program will enable students to find work in a number of local institutions concerned with economic and finances. We have thus opened a new field for our graduates to find work in and contribute to strengthening Palestinian society."


Following the graduation ceremonies, an open day was held at Birzeit University for all past and present graduates. Over 1000 people attended the festivities, which had the primary objective of reestablishing contact with University alumni. Music and dance were performed by graduates from the University, a picture exhibition and video show were open to the public and children's activities were available. Riham Bargouthi, International Relations Coordinator at the university, told Birzeit News, "The day was very successful, up until now we had contact with only a very small number of alumni. During the Open Day, over 500 graduates filled out forms and we will now be able to reach those people and others. We broadcast an 18-minute video on the University since 1976 which was very well received. The children's activities were very popular and we found that parents even stayed to participate with their children!"

"It was very exciting to see such an interest in the University from graduates. It was also very rewarding to see the effort put in by over 75 student volunteers who made the day a success and then thanked the university for organizing such an event."

Please email Riham Barghouti at [email protected] if you are a Birzeit graduate and would like to become involved in alumni activities.