Sally Abou Melhem, Office of Communications
Eleven non-profit private Lebanese universities, including AUB, held a press conference to discuss the current situation of the higher education sector in Lebanon, the challenges it is facing, as well as the solutions and steps to be taken to save it.
In their statement issued in this press conference, the eleven universities called upon officials and decision-makers in the legislative and executive authorities to “accelerate taking measures to save the higher education sector through the issuance of urgent government legislation and decisions to prevent its collapse, which, if it occurs, will inevitably have a catastrophic impact on the social reality in Lebanon in general."
On stage were the presidents and rectors of the 11 universities: Dr. Fadlo Khuri from the American University of Beirut (AUB), Reverend Professor Salim Daccache from Saint Joseph University (USJ), Dr. Amr Galal El-Adawi from Beirut Arab University (BAU), Reverend Father Khalil Chalfoun from University La Sagesse, Dr. Joseph Jabbra from Lebanese American University (LAU), Reverend Paul Haidostian from Haigazian University, Reverend Father Talal Hachem from Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), Father Pierre Najem from Notre Dame University - Louaize (NDU), Dr. Dina El Maoula from the Islamic University of Lebanon (IUL), Dr. Elias Warrak from Balamand University, and Father Michel Jalakh from the Université Antonine.
The universities called on the state, the presidency, the parliament and the government to allow the universities to be active partners in the decision-making around the future of the higher education sector, and not be marginalized in the framework of the Lebanese government and in particular the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, stating that “the mission and role of universities that carried the responsibility of the higher education sector in Lebanon should be respected."
They also called for commitment to applying the laws in force, particularly Law No. 2852014/ on the general provisions of higher education and its regulation in terms of powers and tasks of the Higher Education Council; and decree No. 2176 of 122018/1/ related to the mechanisms for licensing and granting permission to start teaching and the recognition of degrees and its renewal in the private higher education institutions.
The universities also asked for “commitment to the administrative and technical procedures and recommendations emanating from the work of all higher education committees"; “appointing a reliable general manager of higher education, to organize work within the directorate and decide on hundreds of outstanding licensing applications for new educational programs stalled by the ministry for many years without any technical or legal justification"; and “pushing higher education laws forward within a strategic plan that leads to best practices and modern trends, especially the quality assurance law and the remote digital education law."
On the economic front, and in light of the financial suffering that the higher education sector is going through, the group of 11 universities stressed on the necessity to preserve the permanence and continuity of Lebanon's educational institutions. “Here lies the need for coordination between the government and universities in developing draft laws and financial decisions that will determine the fate of higher education in Lebanon to facilitate the work of universities in providing higher education with the quality that characterizes Lebanon."
According to the universities, this coordination is achieved through “lifting the restrictions imposed by banks on university deposits; allowing foreign banking operations and transfers in foreign currencies to cover the operating expenses of universities and their purchases required for laboratories, scientific research centers, and others; and cancellation of all bank guarantees to ensure the operation of the new specialties and the release of the guarantees that the banks currently have."
In addition, the statement called for “supporting universities responsible for managing and operating health centers that provide health and medical services in Lebanon, which are at risk today due to economic hardship, and are suffering from the lack of access to their dues from the state." Stating that if this reality persists, the universities will have to dismiss many of its staff.
As for the Lebanese University, the universities called for providing it with “the utmost care and support in the challenges it is facing and reinforce its presence in all regions," explaining that the reforms that the eleven universities are seeking to achieve are to serve all Lebanese universities, especially the non-profit ones, and that the Lebanese University plays an essential and extremely important role in the higher education sector.
The eleven universities called on “parents, students, professors, and all citizens to raise their voices loudly to achieve these reforms and rally around their universities to support them in this difficult time, to the benefit of the students who will contribute to the building of the society through their participation in the advancement of the state of law and institutions."
Click to enlarge