American University of Beirut Opens Cyprus Campus with Focus on STEM
The American University of Beirut (AUB), one of the MENA region’s oldest and most prestigious institutions of higher education, will be opening a branch in the Cypriot city of Paphos in 2023. Paphos Mayor Phedonas Phedonas announced the move in early April, predicting that construction will start this summer, at a cost of 29 million euros. The satellite university will house three departments: computer science, economics, and a school of civil engineering. Student enrollment will start in September 2023.
AUB’s branching out to Cyprus follows the steady collapse of Lebanon’s economy and the meltdown in the country’s banking sector, which has affected student enrollment, faculty salaries, and the university’s Medical Center (AUBMC).
AUBMC, formerly known as the American University Hospital (AUH), is a prominent university hospital that caters to patients from throughout the Middle East. The Lebanese state is owes the university hospital more than $150 million USD in arrears, money that it has been unable to pay due to its chronic shortage of American dollars.
Last summer, AUB came out with an official statement saying that it would be turning off its central air conditioning due to Lebanon’s ongoing electricity and fuel shortages. Only labs would continue to receive 24-hour electricity, it said. The university warned of what it described as “imminent disaster” resulting from chronic fuel shortages, meaning that ventilators and other lifesaving equipment would cease to operate. This puts their patients reliant on respirators – 40 adults and 15 children – in immediate danger of death. Another 180 patients suffering from renal failure will die without dialysis, AUB warned, and so would its cancer patients.
Lebanon’s banking sector crashed in October 2019, forcing banks to lock depositor accounts in American dollars, sending thousands into financial ruin. As dollars disappeared from the market, their value skyrocketed, plunging the value of the Lebanese pound (LP). The exchange rate stood at 1,500 LP to the American dollar in 2019, but now it’s trading at 22,000-24,000 LP to one American dollar. Like other Lebanon-based international institutions, AUB had inked many of its contracts in dollars and the crisis is now dealing a heavy blow to the university’s coffers.