Press release

Dundee the real prize for PhD student Rasha

Published on 14 July 2022

Rasha Alshakhshir came to Dundee to study for her PhD in 2018. As a Palestinian, she qualified for one of our Humanitarian Scholarships and explains how it helped transform her life.

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I would describe the relationship between the University of Dundee and I as a reciprocal loving one – I wanted Dundee and Dundee wanted me!

I first heard about the city through the Dundee-Nablus twinning association activities, then a delegation from the University visited An Najah National University, where I was working. My Dean at the time told me a lot about Dundee and that got me excited about the place.

I applied for a PhD programme in Inclusive Education, through the HESPAL scholarship, which aims to support higher education professionals to obtain postgraduate qualifications.

I was lucky enough to also become the first PhD student to receive a Humanitarian Scholarship at Dundee, and that made me feel very honoured and humble. Another four PhD students from my home university joined Dundee the following year.

I always tell people that living in Dundee has offered me the opportunity and space for personal growth, not only academically but also as a human being. I have been blessed with a beautiful, supportive, and loving community in the School of Education and Social Work. I have faced challenges and celebrated with supervisors, friends, and PGR students. Getting to know diverse students from all over the world has added richness to my experience.

I vividly remember arriving in Dundee on the train. Crossing the bridge and seeing the vast River Tay is still engraved in my head. Of course, I also remember how cold it seemed having come from such a warm country!

The most difficult part was finding suitable accommodation for my family, as my daughters joined me here. The weather and finding food stores also took some getting used to but within three months everyone had fully settled, and we knew how to navigate the city.

I returned to Palestine in December 2021 due to the terms of my contract with An Najah University but continue to work on my PhD and intend to submit my thesis in the next few months. My studies in Dundee, withstanding of the challenges and the tears, were very enjoyable. I am researching a topic I enjoy and want to use this learning to serve the community in the Palestinian context in the future. I would not only be providing a speciality that is most needed at my university, but I would also extend this to serve other institutions.

The potential research area in this field and collaboration with others is limitless and I hope to continue this with the University of Dundee after graduating.

Coming to Dundee has not only changed my life but also that of my daughters. My girls Liyan (15) and Dally (12) arrived in Dundee three years ago and joined a local school. They have been able to experience a different education system, meet diverse students, form friendships, and explore Scotland. I think it has changed them into better version of themselves. They are more resilient, independent and have Scottish accents! Liyan has mentioned many times that she aims to return to the University of Dundee to study Mental Health.

I would encourage anyone who has the passion, the heart, and the desire to continue their postgraduate studies to apply for a Humanitarian Scholarship. I can testify that it is a life-changing experience.

As I always say, living and studying in Dundee was everything for me and for my daughters – the PhD is just a bonus!  


Grant Hill

Senior Public Affairs Officer

+44 (0)1382 384768