Lebanon’s human infrastructure is our biggest hope for a bright future. Polishing our strategy and re-aligning priorities is the first step forward for Lebanese American University.
Strategy focus for Academic Year 2022 – 2023
The Lebanese American University (LAU) went through the crisis that has been afflicting the country since October 2019 almost unscathed. Despite regrettable, though mild, attrition of faculty, physicians and staff, we retained most of our human capital and even increased our enrollment numbers. This was no small feat given the odds we faced. It came about as a result of specific decisions we made and concrete steps we took. Those included, inter-alia:
a) Allocating resources necessary for leading the country in online transformation and establishing our virtual delivery leadership.
b) Maintaining and indeed improving our ranking position as an upper top-tier university locally and regionally with visible global footprint. Our position at the forefront of the quality higher education camp is now more firmly established than ever.
c) Opening a new medical center in Jounieh (St. John’s Hospital) and introducing major innovations to our flagship hospital, Lebanese American University Medical Center – Rizk Hospital at a cost of millions of US dollars.
d) Taking the bold step of paying part of our staff and faculty salaries in US dollars to help mitigate the devastating effect of the crisis.
e) Continuing to invest in our academic and professional infrastructure: learning resources, innovation center, industrial park, and greater emphasis on experiential learning.
f) Increasing our student enrollment by upwards of 3 percent in the Fall 2022 semester to a total of around 8,300. Few major universities in Lebanon can say that.
g) Accelerating steps to turn our New York Academic Center into a full-blown micro campus. Upon completion of formalities this will enable us to grant degrees in New York both in person and online.
h) Getting to an advanced stage in our strategic drive to expand our academic footprint outside Lebanon. This will be a step aligned to our core mission as a regional institution.
i) The above steps were made possible thanks to the support of the Board of Trustees that authorized usage of over $75 million from our endowment. This alleviated a major burden on the shoulders of our students and made it possible for LAU to support its students and patients on an unprecedented scale. It naturally played a major part in building our ability to overcome the crisis.
Expectations for 2023
In brief, our expectations and institutional performance KPIs for 2023 are:
a) Regaining financial sustainability after dollarizing our tuition fee base against the most liberal financial aid policy of any university in the country, averaging 65-70 percent of the tuition dollar and exceeding $104 million last year. This allowed us to steer away from multiple exchange rates and the untenable situation of getting paid in one currency while our expenses are in another.
b) Pressing on with our plans to establish and operate our “Industrial Park” on the Byblos campus as a first-of-a-kind in Lebanon underscoring our strategic partnership with industry on a multi-sectoral basis. This will amount to a quantum leap in experiential learning and present a level of educational entrepreneurship the country has never seen before.
c) Our plans for 2023 also include a more active talent retention policy through a greater percentage of salary paid in fresh dollars, and a number of innovative steps including completion of groundwork on a Policy Analysis Institute, a Bio-Equivalence Center, more headways in the region, and selected strategic appointments to bolster our talent pool. Steps planned for 2023 also include launching new graduate-level academic programs (hybrid and online), launching a pioneering Critical Thinking Pilot Project, and covering new grounds in our pursuit of sustainability.
Priority requirements and needs for achieving growth
LAU has very clear strategic priorities enshrined in its current strategic plan, namely:
a) Academic and professional excellence, measured against State-of-the-Art International standards. In growth terms, this will be reflected through new programs, mostly graduate, in A.I., Computer Science, and a global MBA. It will also be reflected through new applied research centers and the Industrial Park. All of those should be up and running by the end of 2023.
b) Financial sustainability to ensure continuity of a resource base commensurate with our mission as a world-class university. A case in point is our growth beyond Lebanon in the MENA region and New York LAU’s academic footprint which we hope will have been extended beyond Lebanon by the end of this year as well.
c) Path-breaking role in producing future-proof leaders who are ethically forthright, technically competent, and culturally sensitive. An example is our wide expansion of our experiential learning programs in every School we have and every program we offer.
Our recommendation for developing the economy is to invest in the educational sector at all stages as this is the proven key to sustainable, long-term economic development. The experiences of South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan are shining examples. This is a sector that has built Lebanon in the past and can do it again with the proper level of support. The educational sector is key to Lebanon’s competitive advantage in the region. In partnership with the healthcare sector, it turned Lebanon into a regional hub in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and beyond. Lebanon’s human infrastructure is the key to its recovery and bright future. This is the strategy we recommend.