Internationalisation of higher education in Lebanon

Internationalisation of higher education in Lebanon is an historical process and a natural evolution, and has been mostly the result of initiatives of individual higher education institutions, together with the support of foreign governments, supranational organizations and international policies, rather than the consequence of national legislation. Furthermore, the Lebanese diaspora has resulted in a multinational composition of the Lebanese people at home and abroad, and international cooperation has been regarded as a means to gather Lebanese emigrants back to their roots. The diverse and open cultural background and the high degree of autonomy that universities in Lebanon enjoy have attracted over the decades many foreign students and many foreign universities. On the downside, such a highly diversified development process, together with the Lebanese state playing a minor passive role, have generated a HE sector that appears fragmented, somehow muddled, influenced by foreign countries and strongly depending on the individual strategy of each HEIs.

HEIs are composed of only one public university, the Lebanese University, and 49 private higher education institutions currently in operation in the country. Most of the universities have foreign affiliations, or religious affiliation, born upon historical ties. In general, universities have full autonomy to design their programs, choose the language of instruction and engage in international partnerships. In this context, HEIs do a great deal in reinforcing and strengthening their international dimension to become regional players. The majority of Universities in Lebanon have a strategic plan which includes internationalisation as a core element. The strategic commitment is translated in most cases into the appointment of a Vice-Rector for international affairs, the creation of an International Relation Office (IRO) to coordinate institutional activities and eventually the involvement of different academic and administrative staff in each faculty in one or another initiative as an additional reference for internationalisation. The staff working at the IROs is usually very well-trained.

The language of instruction is for the 90% of cases English or French, other than Arabic, and sometimes (such as for the Lebanese University) both languages are used to deliver courses, so that the HE system basically works in 3 languages. Moreover, most universities receive professors and teaching material from their sister institutions in foreign countries, and many faculty members have double nationalities since they completed either graduate or post graduate studies abroad, and this in turn supports the implementation of joint programmes (this is particularly the case with France) enforcing the international dimension of the sector. In general universities are very active in signing agreements with foreign partners, which offer assistance in the development of curricula and in the establishment of joint programs: joint degrees are quite common with European Institutions (especially with France and the United Kingdom), both for the Lebanese University and for private universities, especially at the Master and post-doctoral levels. The Erasmus+ program has played an important role in diversifying the destination of the mobilities and partnerships, including cooperation with Sweden, Austria, Romania, Greece, Poland, Spain and Portugal.

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