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Oct 23, 2013 09:41 AM EDT

Texas A&M First American University to Open a Satellite Campus in Israel

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Texas A&M University has created a new world record by becoming the first American institution to establish a satellite campus in Nazareth, Israel's largest Arab city. The construction of the new campus is expected to be completed by October 2015.

This satellite campus, dubbed as 'Peace University,' is different from the branches opened by Texas A&M and other American institutions in other parts of the world. It hopes to foster peace in this war-torn country by bringing Jews and Arabs together in the same classroom.

"Well, it's a university where, for instance, the faculty would be half-Jewish perhaps, half Arab," John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, told Times of Israel. "The student body would be diverse, as well. All different people from all over Israel would not only study to get a degree but would become more familiar with each other and foster understanding... A university not just to grant first-class degrees - which we will - but a university that also serves another purpose in uniting people to a more common understanding."

President Shimon Peres and Texas Governor Rick Perry will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding for the creation of the campus on Wednesday morning.

"This is the first time that one of the world's leading research universities opens an academic center in Israel," the President's Residence said in a statement. "The 'Peace Campus of Texas A&M in Nazareth' will give out thousands of advanced degrees and will provide higher education to Jews and Arabs from Israel and the world; and it will be very effective in reducing the gaps that exist in higher education, while preserving co-existence in an atmosphere of academic research that meets international standards."

The Texas A&M Peace University, a branch campus of the sixth largest university in the United States, will take over the Nazareth Academic Institute (NAI), which was created three years ago mainly to educate the Arab population.

"We hoped and wanted to be an Israeli academic institution in every respect, not a branch [of a foreign university]," NAI's dean of students, Soher Bsharat, told TOI. "But when we didn't find a budgeting solution, and ran into many problems, we saw that cooperation with Texas, which is a respected university, was a solution."

The idea to set up a campus in Israel came from Perry.

"He's a huge supporter of Israel, as am I, and we didn't know exactly what the vision would be, but it became clearer when we started dealing with [Education Minister] Shai Piron and Shimon Peres, who wanted it to be not just a university, but a peace university, and that's how it morphed into the agreement that we have now," Sharp said.

The undecided courses in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs, at the new university will be reportedly taught in English. The cost of construction, $70 million, will be raised independently by the university along with Perry's help.

"Last year, our university in Texas raised privately $760 million; we have a good apparatus for that and we think we will be able to raise money to build a first-class university in Nazareth," Sharp said.

This is not the first international campus for Texas A&M in the middle east. The university has already opened an engineering school in Doha, Qatar, a decade ago.

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