Edinburgh Heriot-Watt student graduates while living with her family in refugee camp

She studied online for her degree from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University

Nahed Mansour was among hundreds of students graduating from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University on Saturday – but the 34-year-old Palestinian could not accept her scroll in person because she lives in a refugee camp in Lebanon.

She studied for her masters in business administration (MBA) online and says it will now allow her to start a "new chapter" in her life.

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Nahed lives in the Beddawi refugee camp in Tripoli, north Lebanon, with her parents and seven sisters. The humanitarian worker said the "practical information and knowledge" she gained while studying for the MBA will help with her role. And she now plans to study for a PhD, saying this will "empower me to have a louder voice and advocate for my community".

Nahed Mansour graduated from Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University after completing her studies in the refugee camp in Lebanon where she lives with her family. Picture: Heriot-Watt University/PA Wire.

Her graduation – with distinction – comes just over two years after she helped survivors of the Beirut explosion in Lebanon in August 2020, when some 218 people were killed and more than 7,000 injured when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that was being stored in a warehouse exploded. She helped in the aftermath by distributing first aid kits and holding support sessions for those affected by the blast.

Nahed has also worked with projects assisting Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, including organising Covid-19 awareness sessions to highlight the importance of quarantining and social distancing.

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While she said the explosion in Beirut impacted her deeply, leaving her with feelings of "depression, anger, sadness, giving up and frustration", meeting survivors "helped me to realise that I have a mission in my life to complete, to be part of the positive change and to support others to recover, restore and build a stronger society".

Ms Mansour was one of 20 students who successfully applied to the Lebanese Refugee Scholarship to study for her MBA. She said: "The MBA is the start of a new chapter in my life. I have gained practical information and knowledge that allows me to have more analytical and impactful management skills. Moreover, I am looking to start a PhD in political and humanitarian studies that will empower me to have a louder voice and advocate for my community. My insistence to complete my studies was my way of showing resistance and revolting against the situation; to show I am in control of my life, despite external circumstances.

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"Growing up in Lebanon as a Palestinian refugee has not been easy. There is a very high poverty rate made worse by the Lebanese government's denial of Palestinian refugee rights to be remunerated for employment, social security, public health care, public education and property ownership."

Speaking about her degree, she added: "My experience was great, and while the programme was tough, it was also an unforgettable, amazing journey. I'm now able to look at things with a clearer understanding and better analysis. Although I completed my studies online, I felt that I was on campus. The learning platform is very interactive and accessible, the self-test exercise helped to examine the knowledge and preparing for exams."

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Professor Angus Laing, executive dean of social sciences and of the Edinburgh Business School, said: "Nahed's positive outlook, determination and willingness to learn exemplifies the essential characteristics required for our global EBS online MBA programme. I am thrilled that despite her difficult circumstances, Nahed graduates from us with distinction. I, like many others connected to this programme, are extremely proud of her and of all the graduates who leave Heriot-Watt this week with their new academic qualifications."