The bridge connecting the West Bank with IsraelWikimedia Commons: chadica

The University of Cambridge has banned its students from studying in the Palestinian territories on their year abroad.

In a statement, the University said that the decision was made “due to recent difficulties faced by students in securing visa renewals from the Israeli authorities.”

It is the first time that a destination of study has been marked unacceptable since 2011, when Syria was removed as a result of the civil war.

Difficulties arise as students wanting to go to Palestine have to fly either to Tel-Aviv airport and then travel by road, or Jordan and pass through an Israeli-controlled border crossing. Israel also does not offer student visas for institutions in the West Bank, meaning that students wanting to stay have to leave and re-enter the territory every three months.

The Evening Standard is also reporting that five students in the 2016/7 academic year faced difficulties when landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, in Tel-Aviv, amid more general tightening of security checks at Israeli airports.

Most students studying in Palestine go to Birzeit University, in Ramallah. Foreign language students are required to spend at least eight months in a country where the language they are studying is the first language. Those studying Arabic are already limited in their choices, with most students choosing to go to either Egypt or Jordan.

In the full statement, the University said “Whilst we do not ban independent travel to, or study in, the Palestinian territories, students cannot choose to spend their Year Abroad in the West Bank for the time being due to recent difficulties faced by students in securing visa renewals from the Israeli authorities.

“This is regrettable but our first duty is to ensure that students are able to complete their year abroad in an Arabic-speaking region before commencing their final year of study at the University of Cambridge.”