Bulletin: Birzeit U. Mourns 2,000 Students Killed in Gaza; Iraq Plans a New University

Higher Education and Effective Communication

In our new bulletin, Al-Fanar Media brings you a selection of the most prominent stories and news about higher education in the Arab world.

Before the recent Gaza crisis, I had been talking about specifications and standards for communication at higher education institutions. Today, I want to discuss a new angle of this matter: the qualities and skills that a communications officer in higher education institutions needs.

First of all, communications officers need to be aware of their role in communications inside and outside their organisation.

In addition, they should be fully aware of the nature of the work at their institution, its structure, and its employees’ capabilities.

Communications offers also need to be fully aware of their organisation’s internal community, as well as the local community and local partner institutions.

They need to be aware of the tools and platforms that can be employed to deliver their organisation’s messages, and to be well versed in the role of media and social media.

They must also be prepared to manage any crises that arise, and to represent their institution abroad.

These are just a few of many attributes a communications officer needs. Many other qualities will be discussed in coming bulletins.

Mohammad El-Hawary 


News from the Region

Birzeit U. Mourns 2,000 Students Killed in Israeli Strikes on Gaza

According to Palestine’s Birzeit University, more than 2,000 students have been killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli bombardments that it says have targeted schools and universities. The Palestinian health ministry has said that at least 8,500 Palestinians, including more than 2,000 children, have been killed by Israeli strikes on Gaza since October 7, when Israel declared war on Hamas militants in Gaza in retaliation for an attack into Israel that killed 1,400 Israelis.

In postings on Facebook, Birzeit University said Israeli strikes had killed over 70 teachers and destroyed 200 schools in Gaza. The university has expressed solidarity with the people of Gaza and called on the international community to stand up against Israel’s “genocide crimes committed against civilians.”

Iraq to Establish New University and 10 Colleges

Iraq plans to establish a new university and create ten colleges and 129 departments in the country’s existing public universities, Naeem Al-Aboudi, the minister of higher education, has announced.

According to a statement on Facebook, Al-Aboudi said the ministry is pursuing scientific and academic improvements that aim to make a qualitative contribution to Iraq’s development and educational needs. He spoke at a conference that announced the results of the central student admission to higher education institutions,

Bulletin: Birzeit U. Mourns 2,000 Students Killed in Gaza; Iraq Plans a New University
Iraqi Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Naeem Al-Aboudi, speaking at a conference on central university admission (the Ministry).

Qatar Conference to Focus on Water Security in the Gulf

Georgetown University in Qatar will host a two-day academic conference on November 12 and 13 under the title “Sustaining the Oasis: Envisioning the Future of Water Security in the Gulf.”

According to a statement, the conference will examine sustainable solutions that resonate with the economic and human needs of the Gulf region, in addition to protecting fragile ecosystems. Speakers include Peter Marra, dean of the Earth Commons Institute at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; Essam Heggy, chief scientist and research director of the Earth Sciences Programme at Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI); Jenny Lawler, senior research director at the Water Center at QEERI; and Youssef Wehbe, chief science officer at Weather Modification International. For more click here.

Emirates’ Mohammed bin Zayed U. for Humanities and Cairo U. Discuss Cooperation

A delegation from the United Arab Emirates’ Mohammed bin Zayed University for Humanities Sciences met officials from Egypt’s Cairo University to discuss ways to strengthen strategic relations between the two universities in the scientific and cultural fields. According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), the two sides discussed activating a joint cooperation protocol that would include exchange visits of faculty members, researchers, and students, and the possibility of holding joint academic conferences and other events.

The parties also discussed the potential benefits of sharing resources and experiences in the digitisation of education and deepening scientific and research cooperation, and the possibility of holding a joint conference for postgraduate students dealing with interdisciplinary studies in the humanities and social sciences.

U. of Bahrain to Increase English Content in Literature Curricula

The College of Arts at the University of Bahrain has announced plans to continue increasing the share of content taught in English in its curricula. According to a university statement, the college’s dean, Abdulaziz Muhammad Bulila, said that the percentage of content taught in English may rise to about 80 percent in some programmes.

Bulila noted that the college has a culture of quality and that its students achieve high levels of performance and academic achievement. Specialised committees are studying are studying proposed new programmes to keep pace with scientific and technical developments and the requirements of local and global labour markets, he added.

From Al-Fanar Media:

AI Is Here to Stay, and Universities Need to Accept It, Arab Educators Say

Artificial intelligence is here to stay, and universities need to learn to make the best uses of it, experts from several Arab universities told Al-Fanar Media on the sidelines of the recent Digital Universities MENA 2023 conference in Riyadh. Accepting artificial intelligence in higher education is now crucial rather than an option, they said between sessions of the conference, which was held at Prince Sultan University. Read more in this article

In Conflict: 

ALECSO Forum on Twinning Universities Succeeds, but Gaza’s Plight Casts a Pall

The bloodshed and agony in Palestine dominated the atmosphere of the first “Twinning of Arab Universities” forum, which the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (ALECSO) held in October at its headquarters in Tunis. At the opening ceremony, delegates departed from their written opening speeches to pray for mercy on the souls of the Palestinians. Officials from Palestine’s Al-Quds University and An-Najah National University, both in the occupied West Bank, were unable to participate in person because they found it impossible to travel amid the escalating Israeli bombardment of Gaza. Read more in this article.

Tips and Resources:

Help Create a Better World: A Guide to International Opportunities for Students

University life is a time rich in opportunities for students who aspire to be global changemakers and help create a better world. Several international organisations sponsor activities that students around the world, including in the Arab region, can join as volunteers, teachers, or social innovators and entrepreneurs. In this article, Al-Fanar Media presents a short list of four such organisations.


Sculptures Advance Goal of Making Riyadh ‘a Creative Canvas’

Each year, the Tuwaiq Sculpture symposium invites both local and international sculptors to propose innovative ideas for large-scale public artworks, and the winners are invited to come to Riyadh and create their sculptures. In an interview with Al-Fanar Media, Sarah Alruwayti, the symposium’s director, discussed highlights of 2023 edition and the symposium’s local and international significance. Sculptures from the symposium recently appeared across the Saudi capital as part of Riyadh Art, an initiative that aims to turn the city into “a creative canvas”. Read more here


Social Sciences and Humanities: A Crisis from Within

There is a growing concern over declining interest in the social sciences and humanities in education, as schools shift away from courses in the social sciences and humanities and towards more scientific-based subjects. Scholars often attribute this phenomenon to various external factors, such as a perception the social sciences and humanities are not giving back enough to academia or the public, or a lack of support from universities. Two scholars at Qatar University’s Gulf Studies Center take another view: They argue that the drop in interest in the humanities and social sciences is associated with the practitioners themselves. Read more in this essay


Al-Fanar Media Podcast: ‘Indispensable Sites for University Students’

In a new episode of Al-Fanar Media Podcast, we suggest a number of websites where new university students can find resources to help them adjust to and thrive in their new academic setting. You can listen to the podcast on SoundCloud, Spotify, or YouTube.


Al-Fanar Media maintains a database of quality scholarships available to Arab students, which we continuously update. To stay up to date on the latest scholarships available in international universities, check the Scholarships section here, and watch for updated feedback on free learning opportunities in our News and Reports section, here.

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