In spite of the recent mushrooming of private universities in 2002, the Lebanese University has witnessed a steady growth in student enrollment, reaching approximately 60% of the country’s university student population. Its “golden age” was in the 1960s and early 1970s until the outbreak of the civil war. However, political meddling in its employment, promotion and other internal affairs along with the division of the university into two main campuses (Campus 1 in West Beirut and Campus 2 in East Beirut) are now main impediments to its rehabilitation. The delay in the construction of a new campus unifying the Beirut student population has further aggravated the situation.
The contract for the construction of the campus in Hadath at a cost of $199 million was signed on 6 February 1997 and due for completion in the year 2000. The project includes the construction of 13 college halls to accommodate 33,000 students (the university’s Beirut student population); however, owing to a lack of funds and restricted access to the site, only part of the project was handed over in August 2003 (8 college halls) with the full campus expected to finish by mid-2004. In addition, the cost of the project has reached $224 million so far.
The Lebanese University displays all the symptoms of our society: mediocrity, corruption and waste. It is curious that when everyone is focusing on issues of administrative reform, few are addressing the case of this important institution. A focused and concerted effort to restructure the Lebanese University will not only lay the foundations for an improved education system, but will also be a rallying call for unity and reform, or is that too optimistic?