Nadine Barakat on campus at Bristol Square

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Prioritising community and transparency

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Nadine Barakat represents a community of postgraduate research students. Her efforts have been instrumental in bringing the students together, acting on their feedback and instigating change.

Through its annual Student Awards, Edinburgh University Students’ Association celebrates the passionate members of our community who go above and beyond.

Awards honour the outstanding achievements, hard work, dedication, and leadership shown by our student body. They celebrate the passionate individuals and groups who dedicate their time to a cause, stand up for others, foster supportive student communities, overcome personal challenges, and much more.

No achievement is too big or too small to be celebrated. It’s sometimes the smallest acts of inclusion, creativity, and determination that make the biggest difference to others. In this series of profiles, we find out more about some of the individual winners and explore the extraordinary impact for which they have been recognised.

Student Awards winner Nadine Barakat, pictured in front of a bookcase inside Potterrow Dome.
Nadine Barakat

Nadine Barakat, a PhD English Literature student, won the Outstanding Representation award for her role as Postgraduate Research Representative in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).

Nadine represents a diverse community of PhD and Masters by Research (MScR) students across the School. She was commended for her success in helping bring the community together and instigate change in response to student feedback. She also created the School’s first postgraduate research (PGR) society.

“As a constantly busy cohort, under incredible pressure, we can find ourselves too tired to stand up for ourselves, and I wanted this to change,” Nadine said. “This involved bringing together and coordinating with programme representatives, gathering feedback, and doing my best to find tangible action for the issues encountered, to the betterment of student life.

“I ensured we had more informal opportunities to meet, building a stronger sense of community and more support, which included creating the first LLC PGR Society. I’ve addressed some of the biggest issues faced by the cohort, such as funding and teaching, with School and University staff, and have been trying my best to find tangible solutions.”


It is not the first time that Nadine has organised and actively represented her student body – a role that seems to have found Nadine throughout her education.

As an undergraduate student in Beirut, Lebanese student Nadine studied English Literature and qualified with a minor in American Studies, having focused all her courses on American literature.

“Student activism was a big part of my undergraduate life,” she recalls. “I was a member of the cabinet, and later president, of the biggest independent student organisation in Lebanon at the time, which has since grown into a country-wide student network.”

Further study in the US was on the cards and Scotland was not somewhere she had contemplated: “I randomly ran into an old acquaintance who was completing her master’s at Edinburgh University. She made sure to let me know, in a short, yet path-altering conversation, ‘Edinburgh was made for you’.

“I took a quick look at the website and found an American literature master’s programme that fit my interests like a glove – more so than any university I’d considered in North America. I hopped on a plane in the middle of finals to visit the city and the campus and that was enough to completely change my mind – my heart was set on Edinburgh.”

Student Awards winner Nadine Barakat, seated at a table in Potterrow Dome reading a book.
Nadine Barakat

Having qualified with an MSc, and spent a couple of years in corporate employment, Nadine has returned to the University for her PhD, which will focus on Black American literature, but had no intention of being drawn back into student politics. “I was stubbornly convinced I had done my time,” she said.

“It was the last thing on my agenda here and I asserted, several times, ‘no way I am doing this, I’m done’. Nevertheless, seeing no one had nominated themselves for a while for this role, the first friend I made in the programme nudged me in the study room, half-jokingly, and said ‘you know you’d be great at it – you should do it’. Just like that, he reminded me of what I would say when encouraging students to get involved back home, and something told me to give it a try.

“The cohort decided to entrust me with this responsibility, very unexpectedly and despite having known me for barely a month. I took this as a sign that I should do it and do it well. It really was a commitment to honouring their votes and trust.

“As with my experiences in undergrad student activism, I have prioritised community and transparency. I am a strong believer of the power behind collective voice and effort in enacting change. Community and solidarity can move mountains.”

Strong stance

Nadine’s positive experiences during her MSc studies at the University convinced her to settle in Edinburgh: “I am not a big European city type of woman. Being Arab in the West can prove complicated when it comes to feeling welcome and included but that is where Scotland as a whole, and Edinburgh specifically, convinced me it was the right place.

“While no city is perfect, and the West still has a long way to go for true Arab-inclusivity, I feel relatively safer than my peers elsewhere in the global North, even when expressing my strong stance against colonisation, occupation, and intervention in my region, and that is what matters to me most.”

This strong stance is a thread that connects Nadine’s ongoing and committed student representation efforts with the positive difference she is passionate about making in later life.

“This experience has been a catalyst for my own sense of belonging in one of the most important communities in my life. It has pushed me to use a dormant creativity in conflict resolution and solution-finding and renewed my own commitment to make this world a better, stronger, place for everyone.

Student Awards winner Nadine Barakat pictured on a balcony inside Potterrow Dome.
Nadine Barakat

“I am deeply passionate about what I study, and a strong believer in the humanities’ often overlooked role in political progress, social change, and everyday life.

“I am driven by my political activism and committed to having an impact in academic institutions, and academia as a whole, to redefine them into key players in developing accessible and change-driven ideas that can drive global mobilisation and social change.

“As academics, we have access to human history’s biggest lessons, and in the midst of ongoing colonisation, capitalist hegemony, and climate catastrophe, we have an incredible responsibility to break the walls of mainstream academic practice and purpose. Literary study is an impeccable field to do so. It is necessarily interdisciplinary and reaches and addresses our strongest drives for change and action such as love, grief, anger, and memory.

“Literature harbours and amplifies otherwise silenced or marginalised voices, challenging dominant narratives of human history, thought, and art. I am most inspired by the likes of Edward Said, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, and James Baldwin; all of whom dedicated their teachings and writing to the dismantling of oppressive structures and refused to separate their practice from their activism.”

A group of individual and student society winners on stage with their awards at the Student Awards 2024.
Edinburgh University Students’ Association Student Awards 2024 winners
gold and black stars

Image credits: All Sam Sills/WhiteDog Photography; except Student Awards winners group shot – Edinburgh University Students’ Association.