Anti-Zionist professor's low marks for Israeli - now a distinction

Professor Pratt

Professor Pratt

An Israeli postgraduate student has succeeded in having her dissertation re-marked to a distinction after it was originally supervised and given a poor mark by a professor who campaigns for an academic boycott of Israel.

Smadar Bakovic repeatedly told Warwick University she was uncomfortable with Nicola Pratt overseeing her master's dissertation on Israeli Arab identity.

Professor Pratt is a vocal anti-Israel campaigner who was refused entry to the West Bank by Israeli authorities in 2009. Following Operation Cast Lead she was one of more than 100 academics who wrote to the Guardian saying "Israel must lose" and calling for the UK to implement a programme of boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

Ms Bakovic, 35, from Harei Yehuda, near Jerusalem, spent a year challenging Warwick's original rejection of her appeal against the decision to allow Professor Pratt to supervise her.

She was told last week that her re-marked dissertation had obtained a distinction, with a score 11 points higher than when it was first marked by Prof Pratt.

Ms Bakovic said: "I knew my work was better than the mark I'd been given. After a year of battling, I'm absolutely delighted. I feel vindicated. I did it for Israel."

A university spokesman said the higher mark could be attributed to the fact the dissertation was "substantially different" when it was re-submitted. But the JC has seen emails between Ms Bakovic and another professor who later supervised her, showing that the work was only "tweaked" with "no major changes".

Prof Pratt is associate professor at the university's politics and international studies department. She previously lived in Egypt, speaks Arabic and is an expert on women and gender in the Middle East.

Ms Bakovic said: "I knew Prof Pratt because whenever there was an anti-Israel event at the university I went along and she was often there. She moderated a Jews for Justice for Palestinians event, so I knew her stance. As soon as I saw her name a red light came on." But Warwick told Ms Bakovic she could not change supervisor.

Ms Bakovic said: "Professor Pratt said that I had taken an Israeli and Zionist perspective without investigating the issue. She said I had taken an Israeli government position, but I did not. I included the views of a number of Israeli Arab writers."

The university's complaints committee investigated Ms Bakovic's subsequent challenge. She convinced the panel to allow her dissertation to be re-marked. After being marked by two other professors at Warwick and an external marker, she was awarded the higher classification.

A Warwick spokesman said: "Even though the complaints panel felt Prof Pratt's supervision was exemplary, it felt we should have done more to allow Ms Bakovic to change supervisor at the very beginning.

"A chance was given to re-work the dissertation only because the strength of the student's feelings were not taken into consideration at the start.

"The university stands by the mark given originally." Professor Pratt failed to respond to repeated requests for a comment.

Last updated: 12:46pm, December 22 2011