HIGHER EDUCATION IN TIMES OF COLLAPSE – The perspective of students
HOPES-LEB in partnership with the National Erasmus+ Office of Lebanon organised the dialogue “Higher Education in times of collapse – The perspective of students” on Friday May 13, 2022
This gathering is the third of a series of stakeholder dialogues and meetings, launched in January 2022 and organised on a national level, bringing together professionals and academics, representatives of institutions and organisations as well as students, to further discuss the current situation in the higher education sector in Lebanon and its impact on students and education providers as well as to explore further approaches and recommendations to better address the situation.
This dialogue aimed at analysing the current situation in the higher education sector from the students’ perspective while focusing on their views, ambitions, plans and how they see their future prospects in light of the current circumstances.
Welcoming remarks included interventions from
- Dr. Mazen Al Khatib, Acting Director General Higher Education, Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) Lebanon
- Dr. Aref Alsoufi, Director of the National Erasmus+ Office of Lebanon
- Dr. Carsten Walbiner, Director of the HOPES-LEB project
The first session focused on presenting the results of a survey on “Higher Education in times of collapse, the perspective of students” conducted with 774 students in Lebanon in April 2022.
The second session included a discussion with the students in working groups on priorities and recommendations to design or improve future response mechanisms and interventions and the presentation of key recommendations.
In the throes of a deeply rooted political and socio-economic crisis exacerbated since 2019, Lebanon has been struggling in the last two years with the repercussions of a manifold of strains including the COVID-19 pandemic, the August 2020 Beirut blast and the ever-evolving economic meltdown.
These overlapping crises emerge on the background of a turbulent history, a complex geopolitical context and the toll of the Syrian crisis, now in its eleventh year. Lebanon is with approximately one million registered individuals considered the country in the world with the highest per capita ratio of refugees from Syria.
The local unstable economy, political situation and growing social tensions have turned Lebanon in a confusing terrain quite difficult to navigate in when it comes to providing Lebanese youth and refugees from Syria with the necessary support to better access quality further and higher education opportunities.
Amidst the various restrictions, electricity blackouts, limited access to internet and rationed fuel and the surge in tuition fees, only a small percentage of the youth, from the host community and refugees from Syria as well, has the financial and technical means or the institutional access to continue higher education.
Despite the enormous efforts made, the impact of the economic distress caused by Lebanon’s financial crisis has had a major fall-out on Lebanon’s higher and further education institutions who are striving hard to preserve the continuity and quality of higher education which has for long periods of time been one of the great assets of Lebanon.
While it is impossible to anticipate long-term solutions given the rapid escalation of the situation in Lebanon, all protagonists agree that maintaining the availability and quality of education and higher education must be considered of paramount priority to prevent the emergence of a lost generation of students, an issue that will have lasting implications for their personal future and that of their countries as well.