West Bank - Higher Education

Higher Education

Seven Universities have been operating in the West Bank since 1967:

  • Bethlehem University, a Roman Catholic institution of the Lasallian tradition partially funded by the Vatican, opened its doors in 1973.
  • In 1975, Birzeit College (located in the town of Bir Zeit north of Ramallah) became Birzeit University after adding third- and fourth-year college-level programs.
  • An-Najah College in Nablus likewise became An-Najah National University in 1977.
  • Hebron University was established as College of Shari'a in 1971 and became Hebron University in 1980.
  • Al-Quds University was founded in 1995, unifying several colleges and faculties in and around East Jerusalem.
  • In 2000, the Arab American University – the only private university in the West Bank – was founded outside of Zababdeh, with the purpose of providing courses according to the American system of education.
  • In 2007, the College of Judea and Samaria in the Israeli settlement Ariel upgraded itself to “Ariel University Center of Samaria”. The name change was recognized by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in 2010, but so far the school does not have the same status as the accredited universities in Israel.

Most universities in the West Bank have politically active student bodies, and elections of student council officers are normally along party affiliations. Although the establishment of the universities was initially allowed by the Israeli authorities, some were sporadically ordered closed by the Israeli Civil Administration during the 1970s and 1980s to prevent political activities and violence against the IDF. Some universities remained closed by military order for extended periods during years immediately preceding and following the first Palestinian Intifada, but have largely remained open since the signing of the Oslo Accords despite the advent of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (Second Intifada) in 2000.

The founding of Palestinian universities has greatly increased education levels among the population in the West Bank. According to a Birzeit University study, the percentage of Palestinians choosing local universities as opposed to foreign institutions has been steadily increasing; as of 1997, 41% of Palestinians with bachelor degrees had obtained them from Palestinian institutions. According to UNESCO, Palestinians are one of the most highly educated groups in the Middle East "despite often difficult circumstances". The literacy rate among Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) is 94,6% for 2009.

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