The British Council in the Occupied Palestinian Territories held on Thursday 31 May 2018 a roundtable meeting at Bethlehem University in the presence of the UK Minister of Universities, Science, Research & Innovation Mr. Sam Gyimah.
The roundtable discussion included six Palestinian universities (Birzeit, An Najah, Al-Quds, Bethlehem, Hebron and Palestinian Polytechnic). The discussion included ways on how to make Palestinian universities entrepreneurial and make teaching more research based with the help of the UK’s academic institutions. It also emphasised the need to develop a strategic approach to establishing joint research links between Palestinian and UK universities, with the help of Universities UK and the British Council.
Many of the challenges that were talked about were about the mobility of staff, researchers and even students and the difficulties that is faced when moving in and out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in addition to the restrictions on travel and exchange as well as on the import of research materials and equipment into OPTs, which hampers the research and development capacity in Palestinian universities.
The Universities, Science, Research & Innovation Minister also visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories where he confirmed the number of scholarships being offered through the British Council’s multi-sponsored Higher Education Scholarship Palestine (HESPAL) scheme is increasing this year from 36 to 57. This increase will further enable the next generation of senior academics to maintain quality standards at Palestinian universities and to develop and enhance links between Palestinian and UK universities.
The HESPAL scholarship programme has been run by the British Council since 2010 and is now valued at over £2 million per annum. It is sustained by sponsorship from Gulf and UK socio-economic foundations, Palestinian companies and the Department for Education in the UK. The scheme will upgrade academic staff in Palestinian universities through a Masters or PhD Scholarship programme.