Lebanon counts war's cost

October 20, 2006

Lebanese universities have escaped the student exodus they had feared would result after the war between Israel and Hezbollah, but the conflict cost lives, financial losses and a reduction in the number of Western students.

Richard Rumsey, vice-president for advancement at the Lebanese American University (LAU), said: "We made provisions for a 20 per cent loss, but numbers are up by 6 per cent."

During the month-long war, universities cancelled classes as thousands of students and faculty were displaced or evacuated and shortages of resources left campuses struggling to operate.

Universities also suffered casualties. Three LAU students died in war-related accidents, and 15 male students at the Lebanese University, Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik and the American University of Beirut (AUB) were reportedly killed in battle.

The AUB estimated that the war cost the private institution 5.9 billion Lebanese pounds (£2.12 million) due to cancelled summer programmes, hardship bonuses for staff and lost revenue.

In addition, universities scrapped planned fee increases as part of a policy to provide relief aid and keep student numbers up.

But Western student numbers have fallen. Caroline Chalouhi, AUB's director of international student affairs, said: "There is only one exchange student this semester, whereas last year there were 24. And the number of foreign students may have gone up from 13 per cent to 18 per cent, but the composition is different: fewer are from the West."

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