First Palestinian school listed in the annual QS World University Ranking
By: Dima Abumaria/The Media Line
Birzeit University was ranked in the top three percent of 26,000 institutions of higher education from across the world, according to Quacquarlli Symonds’s newly-released annual survey of university ranking.
BZU, located just north of Ramallah, is the first Palestinian university to be listed in the QS ranking. In compiling its report, QS considers factors such as academic and employer reputation, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio and international student ratio.
“BZU has witnessed a remarkable progress in the past years in terms of research,” Lubna Abdelhadi, the school’s director of public relations, told The Media Line. Last year, the Birzeit faculty published research in 300 different academic fields, she noted.
Established in 1924 as an elementary school for girls, Birzeit became a public university in 1975. The school, with the highest admission averages among Palestinian universities, offers graduate and undergraduate programs in information technology, engineering, sciences, social policy, arts, law, nursing, pharmacy, health sciences, economics, and management. BZU’s nine faculties offer 47 BA and 26 MA programs.
While BZU is located in Area A of the West Bank – which under the 1994 Oslo Accords grants the Palestinian Authority both administrative and security control — the school remains impacted by the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. “We are not allowed to bring foreign teachers or students to the university,” explained Abdelhadi. In addition, BZU was closed from 1988 until 1992 by the Israeli army and was the last of six educational institutions in the West Bank to reopen.
“The new ranking represents historically what BZU has done for its students and staff,” Omar Umran, a BZU graduate and a current instructor at the faculty of business and economics. “It represents the fact that without the entire donor funding and with all of the external pressures, the university has been able to produce leaders, researchers and community institutions.”
Karma Abu Ayash, a BZU graduate and a Fulbright scholar at Tampa University, told The Media Line how proud she is with her alma mater’s new recognition. Abu Ayash, currently studying for her MSc in strategic marketing, credited the university with preparing her so well for her studies in the United States. “I had a solid foundation thanks to Birzeit University.”
Talal Shahwan, BZU’s dean of graduate studies, emphasized the academic honor of being listed so high in the QS annual ranking. The university was competing against the finest educational institutions in the world, Regionally, BZU was among 32 Arab universities from 12 countries, included in the newest rankings.
“Universities are keen to be within the taxonomic ranks; it attracts students, researchers, qualified faculty members and donations,” added Shahwan. “It will motivate the university in terms of development, investing in the educational and research infrastructure, as well as strengthen the university’s relations with local society.”
The QS ranking isn’t Birzeit University’s only recent accolade. BZU was ranked 12th among Arab universities, according to Webometrics ranking for 2017.
BZU president Prof. Abdellatif Abuhijleh reflected with pride on his school’s newly-gained recognition. “Despite the political thwarts imposed by the Israeli occupation, and the fact that we are facing many obstacles due to our financial crisis, the university will never stop its efforts to empower its academic excellence, develop new programs, and enhance its educational and research infrastructure.”
He applauds the university’s reputation as reflecting the joint effort of the administration, teachers, graduates and students. “We have a very good reputation, a very good brand,” Abdlhadi added.
QS ranking will shortly release its 2017 edition for the top universities in the Arab world. In the past two years, Birzeit University was ranked first among local universities, and 50th among Arab schools. “We aspire to be the 25th or 30th listing in the new edition among the Arab countries,” smiled Abdlhadi.