Bethlehem University

Special Needs Access Project

In early 2022 Bethlehem University was successful in attracting funding from Local donors and from American Schools and Hospital Abroad (ASHA) for the construction of a Visitor and Student Centre at the University. However, the funding received was insufficient to complete the project. The university requested the financial support of the Noel and Carmel O’Brien Family Foundation to enable the project to move towards completion through a donation that will be used to provide accessibility and utilisation of the new facility for students and staff with special needs. 

Currently, there are 35 students with disabilities enrolled at Bethlehem University, and the University provides physical access to classrooms, computer centres, laboratories, among other facilities, as well as access to communications and to information. The new Student Centre, together with other facilities at the university, will make it possible for disabled students to further access resources and fully participate in the academic, social and recreational life of the university. 

 Bethlehem University was founded in 1973 as one of four institutions emerging from the visit of Pope Paul VI in 1964. In 1972 in fulfilment of the Pope’s desire to help the Palestinian people, the then Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Pio Laghi, formed a committee of some educational and community leaders and asked them for suggestions in order to follow up and implement a project.  From those discussions emerged the idea of a university. The De La Salle Brothers had worked in the Holy Land since 1876 and offered the site of a secondary school in Bethlehem that they owned, which had been established in 1893, as a campus for a university. The Vatican then asked the De La Salle Brothers to establish a University on that site as a joint venture with the Vatican. Bethlehem University was the first registered university in Palestine and it is still the only Catholic University in the Holy Land. The mission of the university is to provide quality higher education to the people of Palestine and to serve them in its role as a centre for the advancement, sharing and use of knowledge. 


From small beginnings, the university has grown to have an enrolment of 3450 students in five faculties (Arts, Business Administration, Education, Nursing and Health Sciences and Science) and the Institute of Hotel Management and Tourism is served by 400 faculty and staff. Although the Christian population of Bethlehem and surrounding villages has decreased from 86% in 1950 to 12% in 2016, and to only 11,000 Christian population at present because of emigration, Christians comprise 21% of the Bethlehem University student population. The university is unashamedly Catholic in its practices and values and is noted for the harmonious interaction between Christian and Muslim students. In contrast with the prevailing political unrest in the West Bank, Bethlehem University is an oasis of peace and understanding. 

The student population is enrolment comprised of 22% male and 78% female students. Bethlehem University has one of the highest female student enrollment rates in Palestine in a country where women have struggled to gain equality with males in many areas related to employment, education and social status. The university has a strong record of empowering women that includes the election of the first female Mayor of Bethlehem, who is a graduate and former teacher at the University. 


Since its establishment, more than 18,000 students have graduated Fees from students cover only 60% of the university’s annual income with the remainder being sourced from UN, NGOs and foreign government programs, church organisations and private donors.