Editor’s note: This article is part of a package based on research by Al-Fanar Media into job benefits and protections for professors at universities in the Arab world. For an overview of the findings, see “Lacking Job Security and Benefits, Many Arab Professors Lose Interest in Academia.”
BEIRUT—With more than 40 universities, the higher-education sector in Lebanon, a country with a population of less than seven million, should be a substantial employer attracting highly educated people seeking a teaching career.
But university faculty members have seen their socio-economic status decline in recent years, especially since an unprecedented economic crisis has gripped Lebanon since 2019. Skyrocketing inflation, devaluation of the Lebanese pound and scarcity of foreign currency forced many establishments to cut salaries, scrap benefits, and lay off staff members. (See a related article, “Lebanon’s Double Crisis Crushes Both Students and Universities.”)
Attractive Benefits for Some
Hala Auji, an assistant professor of art history at the American University of Beirut, feels in a privileged position, unlike part-time and non-professorial rank colleagues whose contracts are not automatically renewed.
“I hold a tenure-track position, which allows for a longer contract of three to four years, renewable after the first four years,” Auji said.
The Lebanese pound has lost 80 percent of its value, hitting instructors who were traditionally paid in local currency. As a full-time faculty member, Auji receives an attractive benefits package including health insurance coverage for herself and her family, educational benefits for her children, and a temporary housing subsidy. She is also entitled to retirement plans.
“For most of my colleagues and I, who have dependent family members, one of the draws of a full-time position at AUB is the benefits package, which is rather generous, especially when compared to those of other local and international universities,” Auji stressed.
Zero Benefits for Others
For the 2020-21 academic year, the university granted full-time faculty members a portion of their salaries in U.S. dollars. However, it is not clear whether the arrangement will be upheld in the coming academic year.