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  • 7/9/2003

n dir="ltr" xstyle="font-family: tahoma">Al-Quds university:
The Arab university in Jerusalem


Jerusalem (Al-Quds) has played a central educational role throughout its history. In particular, its Muslim schools and faculties, built around the Noble Sanctuary and within the Old City walls, boasted a vibrant academic and scholarly community over many generations. Important scholars felt it necessary to pay a visit to the city, in order to have the honor of publishing their works here. Al-Ghazzali (d.1111), who presided over the University of Baghdad, published one of his famous tracts in Al-Quds. Old manuscripts in use by scholars at the time in medicine,jurisprudence, and mathematics still survive in the city's mosque and family libraries. Most educational institutes were financed by trusts, one of the largest being the "Salahiyyah" (after its founder, Salah-eddin, in the 12th century). However, these scholarly centers, along with other government and community institutes and activities, declined during the 19th century.
The idea of reviving Jerusalem's role as an educational center was expressed at an All-Islamic conference held in Jerusalem in 1931. At that conference, a call was made to establish a university carrying the name of "AL-AQSA," the Islamic shrine in Al-Quds.
However, this university remained an idea, with only the Arab College being launched at the end of the British Mandate period inPalestine. The sense of pride in this step, however, was immediately overshadowed by the dismantling of Palestine, the occupation of west Jerusalem, and the Palestinian Diaspora.
The idea of creatingAl-Quds University, on what remained ofJerusalem, was again revived in the fifties. By that time, theWest Bank had been annexed toJordan, with Amman as capital. Jordan's efforts were naturally focused on establishing a university in Amman instead. Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation of eastJerusalem in 1967 effected and continues to effect drastic actions in the city. An Arab university in Jerusalem was again kept on the sidelines.
In the early seventies, discussions restarted to establish a Palestinian university able to absorb the numbers of students matriculating from the West Bank and Gaza schools, who, due to the circumstances created by the occupation of 1967, could not easily seek higher education in the Arab world. Although there were calls for locating a university inJerusalem, the prevailing school of thought was that establishing a university outside what had become Israeli-occupied eastJerusalem would prevent it from coming underIsrael's control. Slowly, certain well-establishededucational institutions in the West Bank evolved into universities, including Birzeit and Al-Najjah, followed by other universities in Hebron and Bethlehem. Again, Jerusalem/Al-Quds was bypassed.
In the late seventies, several independent colleges were established in Jerusalem and its suburbs, in response to specific needs. The first initiative came with the birth of the College of Daawa and Religious Principles in Beit-Hanina in 1978, to be followed by the Colleges of Medical Professions and Science and Technology in Al-Bireh and Abu-Dis respectively, in 1979. In 1982, theCollege ofHind Al-Husseini for Women (Faculty of Arts) and the Center for Islamic Archaeology were formed, both in the Sheikh Jarrah district.
A vision of a university in the capital, Jerusalem, began to materialize when action was taken in 1984 for the unification of these colleges. This nominal birth came about in response to a requirement by the Union of Arab Universities as a condition for recognition of their degrees. A coordinating committee was then formed from the various college boards of trustees. So, an evolving process of "confederacy" began in which the different colleges still maintained their legal separation. In 1994, the Faculty of Medicine was founded.
The official amalgamation of all colleges and faculties was fully realized in 1995. A "basic law" of the university was endorsed, followed by the honing of integrated bylaws, which were put into effect, thus clearing the way for the birth ofAl-QudsUniversity as a single institution. New centers and colleges were opened or amalgamated, and a full range of academic programs and educational plans were implemented to emphasize a positive concept of interaction with society. Al-Quds University, as an entity, had finally come into being.
If the birth ofAl-QudsUniversity was difficult, survival under stressful and demanding circumstances proved to be a very hard task. Its late creation among already established Palestinian universities, as well as conditions in the city, made the task an uphill battle, academically and financially. Its location presented additional difficulties, physically, politically, as well as legally. Al-Quds lacked seed money, an endowment fund or other stable financial resources. It was continually being threatened by court cases calling for its closure or abidance by Israeli laws. Its campuses and sites were not easily accessible to students and staff from Gaza and the rest of the West Bank. The University found itself in jeopardy of collapsing even as it began to take its first tentative steps.
However, in spite of these difficulties, and through the mammoth efforts and perseverance of those working at Al-Quds University, one obstacle after another was overcome, and a strong foundation for healthy growth was achieved. The academic strength of the various colleges was consolidated, and the way paved for developing an academically distinguished institution. New faculties and programs were instituted to meet the country's needs, new academic staff recruited, and various research initiatives launched. The student body simultaneously underwent an expansion process, with the number expected to rise to 6000, from the current 5250, within two years.
However, and in spite of all the University's achievements, its vital development activities, and its interactive social programs. Numerous obstacles and challenges remain. Topping the list are construction problems on all fronts. Part of the main campus at Abu-Dis (200 dunums straddling Jerusalem's expanded boundary line planned byIsrael) is under threat of confiscation by the Israeli authorities, citing the construction of a new ring road as the reason.
In addition to court cases and appeals, this has prompted the hastening of a plan for the erection of a west wall to protect the property, and the construction of a multi-purpose sports complex on the existing football fields. Plans are also under way to build a student center, student dormitories, laboratories, additional lecture and conference halls, a network of internal roads, a water reservoir, and other sites.
Revamping older buildings and expansions of existing ones is also vital, be it in the Old City, Beit Hanina or Sheikh Jarrah. One vital target topping the list for University fundraising, however, is the building of a central library. An overall development plan costing $60 million dollars has been prepared.
The struggle to consolidate Al-Quds University continues. It is essential to pursue its development in order to enhance the city's diversity. Its further consolidation will mean Al-Quds's survival as a modern educational center of excellence, especially as an educational capital for Palestinians everywhere. Centered in a city that is important to millions worldwide, the University seeks to maintain its universal and inclusive vision.


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Al-Quds University Strategic Guidelines


Al-Quds University naturally shares with all its sister-institutions locally and abroad the general mission of striving for excellence in learning and achievement. Specifically, it also seeks to fulfill the vital role of providing the means for the Palestinian population in the area to develop the knowledge and skills required for contributing towards a well-balanced growth of the Palestinian community.
As it seeks to occupy a leadership role in the cultural, intellectual and educational life of the Arab community in Jerusalem, and mindful of the general needs of the Palestinian population at large, al-Quds University (AQU) also tries to base its strategy on the four following guidelines:
1. The development of a creative mindset;
2. The development of a cooperative mindset;
3. The development of a multi-cultural mindset;
4. Scholarship for Society.

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