In the year When a major explosion rocked central Beirut in August 2020, it was not only the property of Lebanon’s oldest university that was badly damaged.
The explosion – caused by an enormous amount of ammonium nitrate that had been dangerously stored in Beirut’s port and killed 215 people – was also a major blow to staff morale and the finances of the American University of Beirut (AUB). “Hundreds of international students have dropped out or decided not to come at all,” President Fadlo Khoury explained. “We lost about 375 students and another 600 students,” he said, after the disaster that shook Lebanon directly (shocks were felt as far as Europe).
“We have lost around 7.5 million dollars [£6.2 million] It was damaged — the glass-fronted windows of the new teaching hospital were blown in, the Boston-born, Beirut-raised cancer doctor recalled. Three Beirut hospitals were destroyed in the blast, but the university’s medical center proved vital in treating some of the 6,000 people injured by flying glass and masonry. “More than 750 people visited our emergency room in the first hours, including many from our university community,” said the Yale- and Columbia-educated scientist.
For many workers, however, the explosion proved the last straw. In the year In 2019, due to Lebanon’s financial collapse, AUB was already forced to reduce staff salaries to “save the university”, as Professor Currie explained at the time. It was forced to cut 850 jobs in July 2020 as students struggle to afford tuition fees after revenue fell by 60 per cent in 2020-21. A triple ended when the epidemic broke out and he lost the donations and scholarships he was expecting.
But the explosion was a tipping point for some teachers, Professor Khoury admitted. “There was a completely unexpected psychological damage to our country and then the promise of a quick investigation was broken – some people had enough,” he said. Times Higher Education At a recent conference in Kuwait.
That displacement is due in part to AUB’s recognition as one of the region’s top universities. In the year Founded by Protestant missionaries in 1866, the private university became a key study destination in the Arab region.In the mid-1970s, 60 percent of its students came from outside Lebanon, with an American-style liberal arts teaching model. During the civil war between 1975 and 1990, when professors and presidents were arrested, things got tough: One president, Malcolm Kerr, a Middle Eastern American scholar, was killed by jihadists on campus in 1984. But international students returned in the 1990s and now account for 22 percent of the institution’s 8,000 students.
However, while the faculty was in financial trouble, it rescued workers from ambitious universities in nearby oil-rich states. “We raided their managers, especially those who are good and understand the Arab situation,” said a senior official at the Gulf State Institute. of
The Lebanese economy and the two-year explosion caused by Covid-19 have been difficult to deal with, said former newspaper editor-in-chief Professor Koury. CancerIn the year In 2015, he left a quiet life at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. To take over my alma mater in 2015, I felt that the university needed someone with my leadership experience in education and understanding of the health care mission of a great university. But it was definitely difficult to navigate these challenges,” he said.
In addition, it should not be forgotten to give opportunities to some of the 1.6 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Professor Koury added. “One-third of our population is non-resident aliens – that’s a challenge for any country, but we’ve tackled that with resources like giving scholarships to immigrants,” he said, noting that AUB spent $110 million on student aid last year.
Lebanon needs a top-notch research university more than ever, Professor Khoury asserted. “The university has created a sense of purity in the dynamics of Lebanon – we need to be that anchor institution for the country to continue to innovate, lead and grow,” he said. In practical terms, he reflected, that means “giving teachers time to discover new things — not overload them with teaching all semester long — even if they’re busy elsewhere.”
There are positive signs that the university can bounce back, Professor Khoury said: “In two years we have hired 77 new teachers and seen a significant increase in student recruitment.”
AUB standing, up to 13th inch ofThe 2023 Arab rankings, and 351-400th globally, may reflect some of this turmoil, but Professor Currie was bullish about his institution’s future. “Grades don’t keep me awake at night – graduate recruitment does, but thankfully our students measure up to the best on this scale. Even our humanitarians are being ripped off.
Few university presidents face more complex or unexpected problems, but Professor Khoury said he has no regrets. I did not see these problems when I came back, but I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve at such a wonderful institution.