American University of Beirut

Addressing High Dropouts Rates and Barriers to Tertiary Education of Students from Vulnerable Communities in Lebanon

​Research Report


Nael H. Alami, Provost, MUBS 
Diana Maddah, Research Director, MUBS 
Lara Rafeh, Research Assistant, MUBS 
Mariam Fadel, Research Assistant, MUBS 
Hanine Abi Ghannam, Research Assistant, MUBS 
Joanne Karam, Acting Chairperson, Nutrition and Dietetics Department, MUBS 
Nathalie Fakhredine, Research Assistant, MUBS​


​The successful transition from high school to university has proven to be challenging for students around the globe. Refugee students in Lebanon face even more difficulties when pursuing tertiary education, as per the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Many endeavors were initiated to support both the accessibility and transition of vulnerable and refugee communities in Lebanon to tertiary education programs, yet the multitude of barriers hinder that progression. This paper aims to identify the main fears, concerns, and challenges of both vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugee communities regarding moving from secondary to tertiary education, and building the baseline for scholars and universities to design interventions/initiatives that mitigate the stressors leading to dropout and low academic performance, prior to college enrollment. In the following study, a descriptive research design was adopted, following an inductive approach that is designed to effectively understand the main fears, concerns, and challenges of students, and hence, the reasons behind the dropouts, which concludes where possible areas for interventions exist. The study included four Lebanese districts: North Lebanon, Mount Lebanon, Beirut, and Bekaa. The selected population was formed of public high school students, grades 11 and 12, males and females, Syrian and Lebanese, students from vulnerable communities—who either didn’t transit from high school to university or dropped out soon after—their parents, and NGOs working in the same scope of our study. The results of the study were disseminated to the students, their parents, their teachers, as well as their community members. This assisted in presenting the study outcomes and setting recommendations subsequently.

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