In 1835, Presbyterian American missionaries opened the American School for Girls in Beirut city centre. It grew a reputation as an important location for female education over the following century, changing its name twice and gaining official accreditation from national authorities in 1970. Five years later, the institution opened up all its courses to men. It became the Lebanese American University in 1992.
The university now caters to 8,500 students, with around one in five from outside Lebanon. Its hillside Beirut campus has buildings dating back to the early 1930s. However, the university’s larger site lies 35 kilometres to the north of the Lebanese capital in Biblyos. A new health sciences site opened there in 2012 to cater to the institution’s new medicine and pharmacy programmes. Further development, including a new library and student centre are planned. The university also has a base in New York City.
Around 30 per cent of students enrolled at the Lebanese American University are studying for a business degree, with another 30 per cent in the School of Arts and Sciences. Other faculties include the School of Engineering; the School of Architecture and Design; and the Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing.
Since 1973, the university has housed the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World. The Institute established the first master’s degree in interdisciplinary gender studies to be available in Lebanon. Its peer-reviewed journal Al-Raida, dedicated to women and gender studies, has been published since 1976.
The university owns three theatres, two in Beirut and one in Biblyos, where student productions are presented. The university’s Riyad Nassar library in Beirut has several special collections, including a women’s collection and an Islamic art and architecture collection.