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University students… papers with choppy ink

Rédigé le 21/02/2012 (dernière modification le 20/02/2012)

It all starts with their last days at school. Teenagers have to bear the stress of choosing the university to attend while being haunted by a multitude of worrying questions. Looking at the matter through the youngsters’ eyes clarifies their concerns. However, what do the universities have to say? An interview with Dr. Nabil Haidar provost of the American University of Science and Technology (AUST) and ex vice president of the Lebanese American University (LAU) provides ample details.

Pushing themselves through! Photo (C) Ibrahim Chalhoub
Pushing themselves through! Photo (C) Ibrahim Chalhoub
podcast_university_students.mp3 Podcast_University_students.mp3  (422.46 Ko)

If it’s not in the Lebanese University, the official higher educational institution of the country, where they find shelter mainly because of economic reasons, teenagers and young adults have to struggle with the possibilities offered to them from a wide array of universities. The decision-making process is very complex and involves many factors including geographical, political, religious, social, and economic aspects.
However, it is only when students reach the university that they speak about the reasons that made them attend at one place or the other.

The article and interview below try to clarify the matter.

Geography, religion, and the like…

Despite that Lebanon is small enough to enable students attend class and get back home on the same day no matter how far the distance might be, geography plays a primary role in the choice of universities in an interdependent society governed by parental hyper-protection of children even at eighteen years of age especially when the child is a girl. Keeping their children close allows parents, as they would consider, keeping greater control over their lives.
Religious belonging also affects the decision in a country where the religion of citizens can still be seen on their identity cards.
The effect of religious sectarianism on the social acceptance of the other among university students can be noted in the reaction of a student addressed to his teacher during a class debate in an educational environment where a single religion prevails: “but sir, what you are trying to say is just like if you are telling us that people from religion X will go to heaven, and you want me to believe that?”
Political beliefs are not far from their religious counterparts where students from families belonging to a specific political party will appear in universities owned or ran by members of that group.

The primary factor: Economic aspects

Perhaps all of the previous factors affect the final option of the university, but the primary single predictor of the choice seems to be the economic status of families.
That being said, it has been remarkably noticed that after the year 1991, when the Lebanese government decided to open the door for emerging universities to be licensed, competition to attract the larger possible number of students became more prominent. The new institutions provided the people with lower costs compared to older universities, says Dr. Nabil Haidar during an exclusive interview with Podcast Journal. New institutions have been fiercely attacked, but, as I know from my long experience in the management of educational establishments, the difference between the most prestigious university and the others is not more than thirty percent, and the most important is the results of students’ achievements in the marketplace.


Podcast Journal (PJ): What allows the new universities to reduce the credit cost compared to older establishments?
Nabil Haidar (NH): A major factor is the uncomplicated administrative structure which is highly sophisticated in the older institutions and constitutes a big financial burden. We are insuring quality teaching at almost third of the cost a student might pay for a complicated structure university.

PJ: Are you trying to tell us that new universities are providing comparable teaching quality despite the difference in cost?
NH: Indeed. We are recruiting prestigious instructors and paying them wages similar to those of the most important universities.

PJ: Is it the reduction in credit cost while committing to quality education that pumped more than 4500 students into AUST’s main campus in Beirut?
NH: Universities pay their liabilities over extended periods of time rather than straight away. This will enable the educational institution ease tuition fee payment methods for students. The tuition will be divided to not less than 4 payments scheduled around the semester. A reduction in the fee is applied with every enrollment of a sibling or death of a parent. The same applies when a student joins the university sports team.

PJ: One would feel like in a paradox when getting to know this information while noticing the presence of AUST main campus in a high-status region in Beirut.
NH: Every time I enter a shop or restaurant, a young girl or lad serving there would approach me and tell me “I’m one of your students”. Why wouldn’t we do all our best to help the youth who work to pay for their own education?

When students are able to choose their own place to go for higher-education, they might need to abide by the get-it-alone approach to pay for their decision. If some universities are trying to help, where would be the role of the Lebanese government?

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