Celebrations to mark two decades of Alwaleed Philanthropies’ support for University of Exeter students

from left: Dr Shaun Curtis, Reem Mallawi, Professor Lisa Roberts, Professor Helen Berry, Professor Gareth Stansfield

Experts and philanthropists are marking two decades of support which has enabled hundreds of University of Exeter students to take part in life-changing experiences in Arabic-speaking countries.

Since 2003, support from Alwaleed Philanthropies, Saudi Arabia’s foremost cultural foundation, has helped those from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies (IAIS) to travel and study in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Alwaleed Endowment was established in 2003 by HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud. More than 700 Exeter student trips have been facilitated by the Alwaleed bursaries.

Representatives from Alwaleed Philanthropies visited the University of Exeter to celebrate the success of the relationship. They were given a tour of IAIS, home to academics covering issues across the Middle East and North Africa, and a tour of the pioneering Arab World Documentation Unit.

Professor Tina Phillips, Director of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, said: “Students have benefited enormously, both in academic and cultural terms, from the generosity of HRH Prince Alwaleed. We were delighted to host delegates from Alwaleed Philanthropies in IAIS this week and look forward to the next 20 years of our highly valued partnership.”

Professor Lisa Roberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said: “We are very grateful for the support from Alwaleed Philanthropies. This has led to life-changing opportunities for our students and helped them on the path to careers and further study.”

HRH Princess Lamia bint Majed AlSaud, Secretary General of Alwaleed Philanthropies said: “We are determined to build a bridge of communication between the East and the West to achieve tolerance and understanding that extends beyond geographical boundaries. Through fostering cultural understanding and empowering students to engage directly with Arabic-speaking communities, we continue our commitment to building bridges of communication and fostering a more inclusive world. These experiences are instrumental in breaking down racial biases, cultural misconceptions and stereotypes.”

Attending the celebration from Alwaleed Philanthropies were Reem Mallawi, Acting Executive Manager of Global Initiatives Department, and Madhawi Al Ruwaiti, Assistant Operations Manager.

Support from Alwaleed Philanthropies has enabled Exeter students to travel to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, Morocco and Tunisia. The Alwaleed endowment also enables Exeter Arabic teachers to visit IAIS students and has funded PhD scholarships in Arabic and Middle East Studies in recent years.

Harry Long, who studied for a Masters in Arabic and who went to Lebanon through an Alwaleed scholarship, said: “Without this funding the trip would simply not have been an option for me. I would have missed out on some very memorable experiences and relationships and my understanding of the region would have been much impoverished. It is vital for students of Arabic to be able to visit as many Arabic-speaking countries as possible.”

Alejandra Tapia, who studied for an MA in Middle East Politics and Arabic, went to Beirut. She said: “The grant allowed me to develop my Arabic within an Arabic-speaking country enabling me to bring my Arabic to a higher intermediate before starting my second year of my Masters. Having the Alwaleed scholarship also allowed me to travel and learn about Lebanese culture enriching my experience there and developing my language and personal skills.”

Hannah Cook, who studied for an MA in Middle East Politics and Arabic, went to Lebanon and Jordan. She said: “I could not have afforded to pay for flights, let alone pay for intensive Arabic classes, if it had not been for Alwaleed Philanthropies. It was vital in providing me with the financial support to have a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to travel and study in the Levant without incurring significant debt. I am so grateful that I had this opportunity as my Arabic improved so much more from being fully immersed in Arabic-speaking societies for a few weeks than it did from months of classes in the UK.”