Graduate Catalog 2017/ 2018

History of Bethlehem University


Bethlehem University, a Catholic Christian co-educational institution open to students of all faith traditions, is sponsored by the Vatican and conducted by the De La Salle Christian Brothers to serve the higher educational needs of the people of Palestine.

During the 1964 historic visit to the Holy Land of His Holiness Pope Paul VI, Palestinians expressed their desire to establish a university in their homeland.  After consultation and study, it was in 1972 that the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Pio Laghi, formed a committee of local community leaders and heads of schools in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to establish an institution of higher learning that would offer a broad and practical university education in arts and sciences to meet the needs of Palestinian society.

With the support of local educational leaders and the cooperation of the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches and the De La Salle Christian Brothers (the Frères), and their lay colleagues, Bethlehem University officially opened its doors on 1 October 1973 as the first university in the West Bank.  The University was housed on a 17,000 square meter property in Bethlehem belonging to the De La Salle Christian Brothers.

When, in 1972, the Brothers offered to place their Bethlehem property at the disposal of the Vatican, the building housed a primary school as well as a high school of approximately three hundred students.  After the establishment of the University, the school continued to function on the same site until it moved to its new location two years later.  While the Middle East Province of the Brothers operates schools in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, and Turkey, the North American Region of the Brothers are responsible for administering Bethlehem University.

In the same year the University was opened in 1973, Protocols of Accord were signed by the Holy See and the Superior General of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and between Bethlehem University and the local Province of the Brothers to run and administer the University.  Beginning with 112 students during its first year in 1973, 63 students graduated at the first full graduation ceremony in June 1977.  The enrollment of the University increased steadily reaching 1,000 in the Fall of 1981, over 2,200 by Fall 2000, and in the Fall 2014 semester enrolling more than 3,200 students.  As of the end of the 2014/ 2015 academic year there were more than 14,600 graduates of Bethlehem University.

The highly academically qualified and dedicated Palestinian faculty and staff, along with their international colleagues of lay men and women, De La Salle Christian Brothers, and members of various religious orders of sisters and priests, grew to meet the increasing challenges of teaching, research, community service, and administration at the University. The Faculty of Education and the Institute for Hotel Management and Tourism were among the University's first distinctive programs. The Faculties of Arts, Science, Nursing, and Business Administration also grew in response to the needs of the community as did the Institute for Community Partnership, offering continuing education and professional development programs. In 2005 Bethlehem University began offering its first Master’s degree program, a Master’s in International Cooperation and Development.  In 2008 a second Master’s in Biotechnology, in association with the Palestinian Polytechnic University was introduced. Master degree in Tourism and Pilgrimage Management was introduced in 2010, and in 2014 a forth Master degree in Social Work was started.

Throughout its history, the University has expanded its facilities to meet the needs of the growing student body and academic curriculum: Library in 1978; Mar Andrea Women's Hostel in 1979; Science Wing in 1980; Social and Cultural Center in 1990; the Institute for Community Partnership in 1991; Bethlehem Hall for the Nursing and Education Faculties in 1995; Turathuna: Palestinian Cultural Heritage Center in 2000; Millennium Hall for the Arts and Business Administration Faculties in 2002, and the Brother Vincent Malham Center for Palestinian Culture and Heritage in 2009. In early 2012 the new Education building was opened. 

Bethlehem University was one of the founding members of the Palestinian Council for Higher Education in 1978 and continues its relationship with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, which was created after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1995.  In October 1979, a Board of Trustees was established and in May 1981 Bethlehem University became a member of the Association of Arab Universities.  Bethlehem University also holds memberships in the International Federation of Catholic Universities, the International Association of Lasallian Universities, the International Association of Universities, and other such organizations and professional associations.  The degrees and diplomas of Bethlehem University are recognized locally, regionally, and internationally, and are officially endorsed by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education of the Palestinian Authority. 

While it was founded and sponsored by the Vatican and exists on Church property, the University is open to qualified students of all faith traditions, and carefully respects the individual's religious principles.


Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
Phone: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
Bethlehem, Palestine

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