Lebanon 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | B2B

Lebanon's universities are making higher education more accessible to all Lebanese students through private-sector funding and to students worldwide through internationalization initiatives.

Joseph G. Jabbra
Lebanese American University (LAU)
Dr. Fouad Ayoub
Lebanese University (LU)

How do you engage with the private sector in Lebanon?

JOSEPH G. JABBRA We are an important part of Lebanon's society, including the private sector. LAU has in place, and continues to negotiate, agreements with this sector, particularly through our schools and our Continuing Education Program. Today, for example, banks, industries, and pharmaceutical businesses invest money, experience, and expertise in the education of young people. Without such collaborative efforts between the private and education sectors to respond to the needs of the students there is no future for them. Further, the private sector has been instrumental in helping us complete our comprehensive campaign, Fulfilling the Promise, and raise over USD13 million one year ahead of time. They give money for endowments, scholarships, and annual spending for students. We give USD27.5 million in financial aid and scholarships to our students. Some 42% of our students are on some kind of financial aid, and we are proud of that. We have made a commitment to ensure that anyone who is qualified has the opportunity to come to LAU. This goes to the heart of our mission, both socially and academically.

DR. FOUAD AYOUB It is true that LU covers most of the Lebanese territories, but there are still highly populated regions, like the province of Akkar in North Lebanon, which are in urgent need of a national university presence on the ground. Therefore, opening a university campus in Akkar constitutes a priority project for the university. It is also true that our branches are disseminated in the five Lebanese provinces, but many of our buildings need renovation and some of them should be completely put out of service. In fact, we are in urgent need of suitable university campuses, such as the one constructed in Hadeth in the suburbs of Beirut, which meet international standards. The Fanar campus, north of Beirut, is currently under expansion; the Tripoli campus will be completed at the beginning of the next academic year; and the construction of Zahle campus in the Bekaa Valley should begin at the same period. As we all know, building infrastructure is as important as human resources, and all these projects need financing. We are working over with the Lebanese authorities to provide the necessary funding, but times are difficult, so private funding is also welcome. We must not forget that the private sector is a large beneficiary of our high-level graduates.

How important is internationalization for your university and how are you expanding?

JGJ We are looking at how we can be present in the entire region, for example in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. There are two ways we can do this, either through technology by offering online courses or a blended approach to education, or by having LAU present as an entity in other countries, which we are exceedingly serious about. I really believe that if people cannot come to our campus then we should take the campus to them. We are already negotiating with a number of countries to do this. Technology has removed the barriers to the global exchange of ideas and business, and through our curriculum, we provide our students with the right framework for global thinking. We want them to look at the world and know they can succeed anywhere. Our Office of International Services partnered with 40 universities across the world to allow our students to be exposed to other cultures.

FA Our major partners in all domains are French universities; we have MoUs with a great number of them, the last one signed in April 2017 with the Central School of Nantes. We should not forget our historical ties with France, which has currently provided LU with 31% of its PhD faculty staff. Also, the French Institute and the Agence Universitaire pour la Francophonie and different projects from the EU provide our graduates with scholarships for doctoral and post-doctoral studies in different domains, and supports professors and student mobility. But our privileged relation with France and Europe in general does not prevent us from having excellent relations with other foreign universities on all continents. We have signed MoUs with a great number of institutions in the US, South America, China, India, Russia, and Ukraine, not to mention Arab countries.