What have been the major contributions of the university to the country?
The Lebanese University is the only public university in Lebanon, the largest in terms of student population, and has graduated the highest number of professionals in the country. We have more than 230,000 graduates who have built the foundations of this country and include those who innovate and create in Lebanon: the leaders of this nation. We also have fundamental specialization recognized by the law and by the Ministry of Higher Education; most of our specializations are also taken to other universities in order to grant them with official acknowledgment of their programs. Our degrees and certificates set the tone for local education and we take great pride in that. The university is the clearest reflection of Lebanese society, with students coming from all and every socioeconomic background, religion, town and community across the country. We are an Arabic- and French-speaking university, which adds up to wider diversification, since our students are exposed to two different visions of the world. However, in the past 20 years, the university has become increasingly oriented toward English-taught courses to expose our students to the global business language and contribute to their professional development. All these variables combine to make the university a leading educational center in a multifaceted country.
Being the only public higher education institution in Lebanon, how do you maintain a leading position among universities?
The strength is in the numbers. Currently, we have more than 72,000 students, who constitute 40% of the overall higher education student population in the country. We count 5,000 instructors and teachers and 49 branches throughout Lebanon. We also have mechanisms that guarantee a brain gain for Lebanese University, such as contracts with students who were granted scholarships that stipulate them to return and contribute their knowledge to the development of the university and the country. We also partner with Lebanese embassies across the world to reconnect the diaspora alumni with their alma mater.
What challenges do you face in maintaining your leadership?
The main challenge comes from our budget capacities. Being a public institution, we are subjected to budget allocations from the state and this limits our investment capacities. We have several projects in the faculties of medicine and engineering that need loose funding, which we cannot always guarantee; therefore, our students offer their know-how in a social service scheme to the private sector. We also encourage research and need funding for that, so we try to fill those gaps by getting funds from private institutions. We have 600 leading researchers, most of them funded by the Lebanese University, but they also require additional funding from third-party guarantors.
Which countries do you have relationships with and what do these international links represent?
Our main partnerships are with France, although we also have agreements with Russia, China, Iran, and North and South America. We are constantly expanding our partner relations from East to West to offer our students more options to study abroad. We have signed a fair amount of MoUs with different universities across the globe to send Lebanese University students there and to house foreign students in our university. Last year, we sent 120 top students to different universities in order to pursue their PhDs in different specializations.
The Lebanese University celebrated its 65th anniversary this year. What did this event represent?
We celebrated it on April 17, and it implied the diffusion of what the future will look like for Lebanese University from now on. We reinforced our commitment to protecting Lebanese society by constituting a security net on the pedagogical teaching sector, whereby we will continue to provide the country with leading lecturers, teachers, and instructors. Our diplomas have a high value in the Middle East, and many of our teachers go to other countries to teach and do residencies there. We have embraced the responsibility to teach for all of Lebanon and we will continue in that direction.