A U.S. Liberal College Partnership for Palestine

Satellite campuses or international branch campuses – or as I prefer to call them, “outpost campuses” – are a relatively new endeavor. Wikipedia tells me that branch campuses worldwide grew from 35 before 1999 to 162 in 2009. And it seems there are plenty of wrinkles in the process of establishing them. Just ask Yale University, as it defends its actions in establishing an undergraduate college with National University Singapore, slated to open in 2015.

Some contentious issues arise: Is the quality of the two campuses the same? Yale says yes. Will the outpost campus issue degrees? Yale says yes, and Yale-N.U.S. won’t be accredited in the U.S. Will students be able to move freely between campuses? Not really. Can a liberal university guarantee academic freedom in a country with a questionable human rights record? Yale seems to think it can, although many protest.

This post really isn’t about the Yale-N.U.S. College. It is about a more interesting program: the Al-Quds Bard Partnership. I choose to focus on the Partnership because this outpost campus model makes direct contributions – in my eyes – to social and economic development. Housed at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, the Partnership aims to “raise the level of Palestinian education, as the best means of preparing young Palestinians to assume the responsibilities of leadership and self-governance in a future democratic state.” In other words, to prepare Palestinians to establish and develop their future country.

The Partnership offers two degree programs. The first is a B.A. from the Honors College for Liberal Arts and Sciences, which offers diverse coursework in 15 fields, including human rights and environmental studies. The second is a Masters of Arts Innovation Schools Program, which offers a M.A. in Teaching and includes hands-on experience. These programs are designed “to educate future leaders and foster economic development education should encourage a critical turn of mind and an entrepreneurial spirit.”

Another cool Al Quds Bard initiative, Campus in Camps, brings together 15 students from West Bank refugee camps to envision a different identity for their camps. The initiative is run in partnership with the German Government and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). More from the website:

The aim is to provide young motivated Palestinian refugees who are interested in engaging their community the intellectual space and necessary infrastructure to facilitate these debates and translate them into practical community-driven projects that will incarnate representational practices and make them visible in the camps.

Both the Partnership and the Yale-N.U.S. model have the goal of bringing American liberal education to a new region, yet the Al-Quds Bard Partnership has innovative programs that directly link university resources to economic and social development. I applaud Al-Quds’s and Bard’s efforts.

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