Bulletin: 2 Million Gazans Endure Communications Blackout, Birzeit U. Says; Fintech Honours 2 Lebanese U. Alumni

Are You Successful?

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

Today, I am not going to talk about higher education and research, nor will I exhaust you by talking about crises, nor will I besiege you by talking about dreams. I am just going to ask you: Are you successful?

My question is built on many conversations and interviews with young people in the college-going age range, or perhaps a little older. They, like nearly everyone, follow social media, with all its postings about tragedies, deaths, and injuries. However, there are a great many posts about success and achievement as well.

Social media users may post wonderful photos from a new trip, or pictures of themselves with a famous person, a new job title, a new degree, an athletic success, a fit body, a new book, or some other accomplishment.

Do you think such postings reflect success?

There are standards for success. They may vary over days and years, the succession of generations, and technological development. I’ll tell you about them later.

Until then, maybe you can tell me what success means to you. You can leave a comment in the Comments field below, or contact me at [email protected].

Mohammad El-Hawary
Al-Fanar Media editor-in-chief

From the Region:

Israeli Blackout Leaves 2 Million Gazans Incommunicado, Birzeit U. Says

Palestine’s Birzeit University reported on Tuesday that the Israeli occupation had cut off communications and Internet access across the Gaza Strip for five days. The blackout started on January 12 and was at least the ninth and the longest such disruption since the start of the Israel-Hamas war more than four months ago.

In a statement, the university said that the disruption prevented people in Gaza from making sure their families were still alive, and made conditions on the ground more difficult in the midst of continuing bombardments. It added that the Israeli military had attacked communications company crews as they attempted to restore communications. The latest such attack was in the southern city of Khan Younis, where the occupation shelled a vehicle belonging to a communications company, killing two of the crew.

The New York Times reported that NetBlocks, an internet monitoring group, had confirmed the latest blackout. It said the internet outage was “near-total”, and that landline, cellular and wireless internet service were probably unavailable to most residents in Gaza.

Lebanese U. Graduates Discover Vulnerability in European Fintech’s Systems

Revolut, a financial technology company in Europe that offers banking services to more than 35 million customers, has honoured two graduates of the informatics division of the Lebanese University’s Faculty of Science for discovering a serious security vulnerability in the company’s systems, the university announced.

In a statement, the university said that the cybersecurity researchers Hassan Badran and Majd Dhaini had discovered a vulnerability that indirectly threatened the financial transactions of customers who use the company’s app. After Badran and Dhaini provided a detailed report on the vulnerability, Revolut confirmed the problem’s existence and worked with the researchers to fix it. The company did not publish technical details about the vulnerability but classified its severity as high. It rewarded Badran and Dhaini and included their names on its list of honour, a first-time achievement for Lebanese and Arab researchers in the company’s history.

Bulletin: 2 Million Gazans Endure Communications Blackout, Birzeit U. Says; Fintech Honours 2 Lebanese U. Alumni
Lebanese researchers Hassan Badran and Majd Dhaini (Photos via the Lebanese University)

Intersec 2024 Champions Women in Security

During the recent Intersec 2024 Security Leader’s Summit in Dubai, a trade fair for safety, security, and fire protection professionals, a panel on Women in Security discussed ways to empower women in this sector.

According to the Emirati News Agency (WAM), participants recognised that effective training, skills utilisation, economic empowerment, and inclusive policy changes were key factors in empowering women in the sector, a step necessary to foster diversity, enhance organisational performance, and address gender disparities. The panel emphasised the need for collaboration among governments, industry leaders, and advocacy groups to drive positive change and establish an environment where women can thrive in security-related careers.

Lorraine Adkins, interim director of campus safety operations at New York University Abu Dhabi, acknowledged inherent dangers for everyone in the field while celebrating the fact that 25 percent of security officers at the university are women.

KAUST Researchers Release Comprehensive Catalogue of Ocean DNA

Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and collaborators in Spain have released Global Ocean Gene Catalogue 1.0, which they describe as the world’s most comprehensive database yet for understanding microbial distribution and function in the ocean.

In a statement, the university said the scientists used the KAUST Metagenomic Analysis Platform (KMAP), invented at KAUST in 2021, to analyse massive amounts of DNA sequencing data to produce the catalogue. Considering the dynamics of oceans and ocean life, the catalogue provides an invaluable database for how marine ecosystems are adapting to an environment that is constantly changing because of natural and anthropogenic causes.

“Scientists can access the catalogue remotely to investigate how different ocean ecosystems work, track the impact of pollution and global warming, and search for biotechnology applications such as new antibiotics or new ways to break down plastics,” said Carlos Duarte, the Ibn Sina Distinguished Professor at KAUST who led the project.

Scholarship in Medicine at St. George’s University, in Caribbean

The School of Medicine at St. George’s University, a private institution in the Caribbean island nation of Grenada, has launched the Academic Merit Scholarship for international students wishing to study medicine. In a statement, the university said the new scholarship highlights the university’s commitment to promoting financially sustainable education and appreciating academic excellence among students from around the world. Other university scholarships available to international students include the International Peace Scholarship and the Global Scholars Scholarship.

From Al-Fanar Media:

Report on Higher Education and Sustainable Cities Highlights Good Practices at Aswan U.

A recent report on how higher education institutions can help meet a key United Nations goal for safe and sustainable cities highlights Aswan University’s contributions in this area. The report, titled “The Contributions of Higher Education Institutions to Sustainable Cities and Communities”, was issued in November by the Unesco International Institute for Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (IESALC) and Times Higher Education, a British publisher of higher-education news and rankings.

Egypt’s Aswan University was profiled in the report as a case study of how universities can show evidence of good practices. Aswan was chosen as a case study “because of the very clear, innovative and substantial efforts it is undertaking to meet SDG 11,” one of the report’s authors told Al-Fanar Media. Read more in this article.

Media Literacy:

Media Literacy in the Arab World: the ‘Media Literacy of the Oppressed’?

Twenty years ago, no Arab university offered a course in media literacy. Now at least 150 do. Jordan, the Arab world’s pioneering media-literacy country, teaches the subject from primary school onwards. But is it the same as the subject taught in the West? Jad Melki, director of the Institute of Media Research and Training at the Lebanese American University, thinks it isn’t. Read more in this article.

Al-Fanar Media Panel Discussions:

How Can Arab Academics Support the Palestinian Cause? Professors Offer Ideas

In a recent episode of Al-Fanar Media’s series of panel discussions, which address issues and challenges of the Arab higher-education community, Arab academics discussed the role university professors can play in supporting the Palestinian cause. Participants’ suggestions included calling for networking with other academics around the world who support the Palestinian cause, and teaching younger generations to take up the issue on knowledge-based grounds, away from aggression or insulting “the other.” Read more in this article.

In Conflict:

Libyan University Students Struggle to Catch Up after Teachers’ Strike Ends

Libyan university students face a struggle to catch up in their studies after professors’ sit-ins caused a two-month delay in the start of the academic year. The academic year was scheduled to start on September 17, but was delayed by the professors’ protests over pay and benefits. The teaching staffs agreed to resume classes in late November after their union, the General Syndicate of University Faculty Members in Libya, reached an agreement with the interim Government of National Unity, based in Tripoli. Syndicate and government officials are now planning changes to the academic calendar that will allow students to complete a full academic year by this summer. Read more in this article.


Focus on Critical Thinking Skills to Help Meet AI’s Challenge to Future Jobs

The risks that threaten the future of humanity now include artificial intelligence. Is it possible to interact positively with this problem, by presenting a comprehensive cognitive map based on the generative mind and critical thinking as a model and analytical tool? Critical thinking skills include problem solving, analysis, creative thinking, interpretation, evaluation, and reasoning, are among the most important factors influencing success in knowledge and work. These skills are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to be replaced by artificial intelligence, and yet are essential to addressing questions about the future of knowledge and work. The approach of focusing on measuring and developing critical thinking skills opens the way for universities to interact positively with the skills gap and other problems of the future. Read more in this essay by Salah Khalil, chief executive of Macat International and a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the Alexandria Trust. Al-Fanar Media is one of the projects of the Alexandria Trust.


Hear from Arab Experts on Fact Checking in New Podcast Episode

In the latest episode of Al-Fanar Media Podcast, editors of well-known Arab news organisations discuss media literacy and the importance of fact checking news stories and other online content. The episode, titled “Media Literacy: Checking Information”, focuses on experiences in verifying information in media work and its role in eradicating media illiteracy. You can listen to this episode and others in the series 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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