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Northumbria University host visitors from the Islamic University of Gaza

27th June 2023

Northumbria University welcomed students and academics from the Islamic University of Gaza as part of a British Council-funded project.

The project between the two universities offers inter-disciplinary collaboration in the fields of disaster management, international development, social work and engineering.

The visit was the first-time students across both universities were able to meet face-to-face after two years of online collaboration between staff.

During the visit, meetings were held with the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Cllr Veronica Dunn; the Deputy Leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Karen Kilgour; MP for Newcastle Central and Shadow Minister for Science, Research & Innovation, Chi Onwurah; and the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Dr Husam Zomlot. 

There were also visits to centres of engineering excellence including at Northumbria’s campus, to local engineering company ADM Automation, to Durham University, as well as attending the North East Battery Alliance conference, held at Newcastle University’s Science Helix campus.

The visit is part of ongoing broader research called the English as a Medium of Education for Female Engineers’ project, led by Northumbria University’s English Language Studies and funded by the British Council and supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The project compares the experiences of female engineers at UK universities who have English as an additional language, with their peers’ experiences in Palestine. 

The collaboration between the two universities is unique because it offers students across the three disciplines the opportunity to work with one another as well as giving UK students the chance to work with staff and students from overseas universities. Four out of the five visitors from Gaza to Northumbria were female engineers, thus further inspiring Northumbria’s female students in this subject area.

Some of the activities held at Northumbria University during the visit included the Gazan students presenting four problems in Gaza for Northumbria students to work on from engineering, disaster management, international development and social work perspectives. Problems included sewage treatment, hospital overcrowding, working within the limitations of 3G and the lack of fresh water in the Gaza strip.

A Northumbria University engineering student who took part in the visit, said: "I wanted to express my gratitude for giving me the opportunity to participate in the design sprint on the Gaza event. It was an incredibly informative conference that provided me with valuable insights on working collaboratively within a team. Over the course of those two days, I gained a wealth of experience and knowledge that I believe will greatly benefit me in my future endeavors. The interactive sessions, engaging discussions, and practical exercises were instrumental in enhancing my understanding of effective collaboration strategies.”

The project’s principal investigator, Dr William Guariento, Assistant Professor in Northumbria's Department of Humanities, said: “Feedback from students has shown that thinking across disciplines, and about problems we in the UK so rarely have to face, can bring truly transformative learning for all involved. We aim to deepen our online and face-to-face relationship with staff and students at the Islamic University of Gaza, to gain from their knowledge and experiences, and to pursue further collaborative research.” 

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