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Lebanese Universities Expand Overseas to Battle the Economic Crisis at Home

/ 21 May 2022

Lebanese Universities Expand Overseas to Battle the Economic Crisis at Home

BEIRUT—Three leading Lebanese universities are looking to profit from the country’s educational reputation by establishing educational hubs elsewhere in the region.

Two institutions are branching out to Cyprus: The American University of Beirut will establish a “twin” campus in Paphos, and the University of Balamand  is teaming up with the  University of Central Lancashire–Cyprus to establish a faculty of medicine in Larnaca.

The Lebanese American University is considering setting up a branch campus in Baghdad, but is also assessing other locations.

A New American University of Beirut, in Cyprus

“AUB has a great brand name across the region, but at this point in time, foreign students are not attracted to Lebanon, but to an AUB outside Lebanon.”

Imad Baalbaki   The American University of Beirut’s vice president for advancement and business development

The American University of Beirut was planning to expand beyond Lebanon even before the country’s economic collapse three years ago.

“We want to have a substantial and larger presence online in addition to re-emphasizing AUB’s regional role and its global presence,” Imad Baalbaki, the university’s vice president for advancement and business development, told Al-Fanar Media.

“AUB has a great brand name across the region, but at this point in time, foreign students are not attracted to Lebanon, but to an AUB outside Lebanon.”

Baalbaki said the university settled on Paphos after assessing a dozen locations in the region.

The Cyprus campus will be dubbed the American University of Beirut–Mediterraneo to emphasise its regional character. Construction is set to take place in three phases, with an initial investment of $30 million.

The new campus will have “twin” status academically, and its architecture highlights that through the use of horseshoe arches and a clock tower, in reference to the historic Beirut campus.

Both campuses will have the same admissions and education quality standards, so students and faculty will be able to move between Beirut and Paphos for courses and teaching.

“This is the importance of having a twin campus instead of a branch,” Baalbaki said. “Students in Cyprus can spend a semester or a year in Beirut, and vice versa.”

The target date for welcoming students is the fall of 2023, starting with six majors. They include business administration, engineering management, computer sciences, industrial engineering, and a new major combining political science, economics and philosophy.

University of Balamand Also Looks to Cyprus

“Due to capacity limitations at home, the Balamand faculty of medicine in Larnaca will also provide an opportunity for excess qualified students from Lebanon to enroll in the medical programme.”

Elias Warrak   President of the University of Balamand

The University of Balamand has also embarked on a venture in Cyprus. With  the University of Central Lancashire–Cyprus (UCLan–Cyprus), it is developing pre-medical programmes, with plans to establish a medical school.

The academic project aims to enhance the health-care sector in Cyprus in general, and Larnaca in particular, by making existing hospitals university medical centres, Balamand’s president, Elias Warrak, told Al-Fanar Media.

“The best way to adjust the health-care system in any area is to go through the academic channel,” Warrak said.

He added: “Due to capacity limitations at home, the Balamand faculty of medicine in Larnaca will also provide an opportunity for excess qualified students from Lebanon to enroll in the medical programme.”

Teachers at the Lebanese faculty of medicine will be paid more if they also give courses in Larnaca.

Pre-medical programme requirements will be added to the curriculum at UCLan–Cyprus by September, with the aim of establishing a medical school by   autumn of next year.

Fadlo Khuri (fourth from right), president of the American University of Beirut, with AUB and Cypriot officials following the signing ceremony establishing AUB–Mediterraneo. (Photo: AUB)
Fadlo Khuri (fourth from right), president of the American University of Beirut, with AUB and Cypriot officials following the signing ceremony establishing AUB–Mediterraneo. (Photo: AUB)

Warrak said: “We will have the same programme, same curricula and same requirements as in Lebanon. In the future there is a plan to create other majors, but we are moving step by step.”

Options for the Lebanese American University

The Lebanese American University is also looking to expand abroad.

“The university has become much bigger than the local economy can support,” Elie Badr, LAU’s vice president for business development and global affairs, told Al-Fanar Media. “The only way to sustain its revenues is to go outside Lebanon.”

“The university has become much bigger than the local economy can support. The only way to sustain its revenues is to go outside Lebanon.”

Elie Badr   Vice president for business development and global affairs at the Lebanese American University

The university has signed an initial memorandum of understanding with private investors to set up a campus and hospital in Baghdad but is also considering other locations, including Cairo and Riyadh.

“A final decision on the location of the campus will be taken by the Board of Trustees in September,” Badr said.

Under the memorandum with Iraqi investors, the Lebanese American University will establish different faculties, including a medical school and a hospital. It will be initially offered a plot of land with an area of 60,000 square meters free of charge with an option to buy an additional 50,000 square meters at less than market prices.

The project will be implemented in three phases. The first phase will take three to five years, during which the university will decide on academic programmes. For financing, LAU will explore a range of options, including international and regional investment and development agencies.

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After years of war, “Iraq is in big need of private quality higher education, especially in health care,” Badr said.

He added: “Iraqis have high regard for the Lebanese education system, especially mixed Lebanese-American programmes.”

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Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام