Dortmund, March 3 2018
I am honored to be here tonight in Dortmund, to celebrate with you the third anniversary of the launch of the Friends of Al-Quds University Association in Westphalia. I am also privileged to stand before this distinguished gathering of friends and partners, whose support and guidance have made it possible for Al-Quds University to open new horizons in Westphalia, and be part of an ever growing network of partnerships and affiliations. These partnerships continue to provide our students and scholars with unique educational and research opportunities that not only benefit their recipients, but benefit the Palestinian society as a whole, particularly in East Jerusalem.
As we gather tonight to inaugurate another successful year of strong and growing partnerships, I cannot but express my deep gratitude, and that of Al-Quds University, to a principled and committed organizer and leader: Mr. Jamal Mahmoud. On behalf of Al-Quds University, I want to thank you and thank the Friends of Al-Quds University Association for your support, guidance, and friendship. We look forward to continuing our joint work toward the realization of broader and diverse partnerships with institutions and individuals in the Westphalia region, and in Germany more broadly.
As we seek to expand our partnerships, one might wonder: why a Palestinian university based in Jerusalem would seek partnerships several seas away from home? Well, we do seek such partnerships because at Al-Quds University we have a dream, we have a vision, and we have a plan.
Our dream is to see our society living in a free, independent, democratic and prosperous state, which in turn will contribute to a better and more prosperous world.
Our vision is to develop and empower generations of leaders in fields that allow them to make a difference in their society and in the world.
And our plan emanates from our belief that knowledge through education is the most powerful tool that can and will make a difference, and with which the young generations should be equipped.
We also believe that no single university, no single country, not even a single continent, possesses or has the ability to single-handedly generate the knowledge that can address the needs of an ever growing, ever demanding world.
Emanating from this belief, and driven by our commitment to finding answers to the daunting challenges that confront the Palestinian society, we have sought and continue to seek partnerships with institutions that share with us these goals, institutions from which we can learn, and with which we can share our knowledge.
Our aim is not only to disseminate knowledge, but also to generate it. Our goal is to empower with knowledge the young generation of Palestinians who will carry the baton in the quest for achieving and maintaining a free and prosperous state. As an institution of higher education, we believe that it is our responsibility to respond to the needs of our society, and to collectively provide answers to the challenges that confront our present world.
Why Westphalia and Germany one might also wonder?
There are several reasons for seeking such partnerships in Germany. One main reason is that Al-Quds University has for long enjoyed strong multi-faceted partnerships with German institutions. These partnerships have already culminated in several success stories, which continue to inspire universities in the Arab region to follow suit.
The joint masters in European studies program, which is part of an ongoing partnership between Al-Quds University and the University of Dusseldorf, is one example of such unique partnerships. Established in 2009, students enrolled in this program, attend the first half of the two-year masters in Palestine, and complete the second year in Düsseldorf, where they receive both theoretical training as well as practical study tours of the different institutions of the EU. This year, the program celebrated the graduation of the 8th cohort of graduates, who left the program as well-versed professionals, capable of navigating issues that relate to the European Union, and ready to provide expert analysis and advice on matters that pertain to the Old Continent. But more importantly, they leave as bridges of understanding between the two countries and cultures.
Al-Quds University and Dortmund University of Applied Science and Research are also working on establishing a joint program that seeks to promote the entrepreneurship and innovation culture, and exchange expertise in the field of start-ups management and development. This partnership is so timely and important, as Al-Quds University has for long been exploring the possibility of promoting this field, which remains new to our region, and we thank Dortmund University for extending a much-needed hand.
Another partnership, of which Al-Quds University is equally proud, is the Dual Studies Program, which we founded 3 years ago, with support from the German government, and in which we have so far enrolled more than 300 outstanding undergraduate students. Modeled on the German approach of combining academic learning with simultaneous practical training, this program prepares graduates that are well-versed in the fields of engineering, information technology, and business administration, and who graduate with a competitive advantage of four years of practical training over their peers, in the race for employment in an already scarce job market, and who stand ready to contribute to building their societies. The Dual Studies program has been one of Al-Quds University's success stories that several universities now wish to adopt, and with which we are ready to work and to share this knowledge.
But as these programs allow our graduates to compete better for jobs, we believe that our mission should not be limited to the task of making our graduates more competitive in a narrow job market, but should extend to finding answers to the larger socio-economic challenges that confront Palestine. In the absence of solutions to these challenges, prosperity will not be achieved. It is for this reason that our thinking at Al-Quds University has moved from the conventional approach of job finding for graduates, to job creation by our graduates. Allow me please to elaborate.
As you know, Palestine is a young society. More than 70% of our population is under the age of 30. While we are lucky to be endowed with a youthful population, unemployment amongst this segment of the population is as high as 40%. Overall income has remained relatively low and persistently stagnant over the last twenty years, with no signs in the offing of imminent recovery.
It is for this reason that Al-Quds University has pioneered in initiating several programs that aim at reducing unemployment and increasing national income, through the creation of new tradable industries and services, mostly the product of ideas and projects conceived and developed by none other than our own students and graduates. By promoting innovation and entrepreneurship, and by providing these cohorts of outstanding young innovators with the tools that allow them to transform their projects into business ventures, we believe that not only will we help create new jobs, but we will also contribute to stimulating growth and help create a better economy. One such program that Al-Quds University has been working tirelessly to achieve is a full-fledged business incubator and accelerator. The “Jerusalem Business Hub”, as it will be called, will be the largest business incubator not only in Jerusalem or Palestine, but perhaps in the entire Arab region. We believe that this incubator will provide thousands of innovative youngsters with a platform to refine their ideas and to develop them into projects, and connect through the incubator with potential investors and financiers. It gives me a great pleasure to break the news from this platform that our incubator, which will be located in the heart of one of Jerusalem's most bustling neighborhoods, will open its doors in 4 months.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This incubator is only one example of the several projects in which Al-Quds University is investing energy and treasure. Our goal from these projects is to help build a free and prosperous society. But as several of these projects are being introduced for the first time in Palestine, our expertise in these areas are equally new. It is for this reason that we find tremendous value in the partnerships that we build with you. And as we continue to navigate new seas, we remain hopeful to learn from your experience in these areas, and to benefit from your guidance and support, as friends and partners that share the goal of bringing the best to our worlds.
It is an honor to be part of this Gala. Its kind organizers call it a fund-raising dinner. But I consider it a friend raising gathering. May this friendship continue to grow, and I hope that the next gathering will be at Al-Quds University, in Jerusalem, where we would celebrate together the successful outcomes of this friendship.