Historical Background

The university started out  in 1835 as “the first edifice built as a school for girls in the Turkish Empire.” An engraved stone in Beirut’s downtown refers to LAU’s educational ancestor, the American School for Girls, established in Beirut by American Presbyterian missionaries. In 1924, a two-year program was added to the high school, resulting in a junior college curriculum. Soon after, in 1927, the American Junior College for Women (AJCW) became a separate institution and six years later it moved to its present location in Ras Beirut.

In 1948-49 the AJCW program was expanded into a university-level institution under the name of Beirut College for Women (BCW). During that academic year, BCW was granted a provisional charter by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York and authorized to bestow the Associate in Arts (AA) and Associate in Applied Sciences (AAS) degrees. In 1955 the Board of Regents granted the college an absolute charter with all its rights and privileges, including the authority to hand out Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), Associate in Arts, and Associate in Applied Science degrees. As a recognized university-level liberal arts college, it played a key role in serving the educational, social, and economic needs of the Middle East and played a particularly important role in developing women leaders for the region.

In 1970 another milestone was reached when the Lebanese government officially recognized BCW’s BA and BS degrees as equivalent to the national Licence. Having accepted men into some AA programs, the college in 1973 changed its name to Beirut University College (BUC). The following academic year, five BA/BS majors were opened to male students, and in October 1975 men were admitted into all programs. In 1978, BUC opened an off-campus program in the north, and a year later another one was operational in the South.

Adding to the College’s constantly evolving programs, in 1985, the Board of Regents amended the charter to include the two branch campuses. In 1987, based on the amended charter, BUC opened its northern branch on the outskirts of the historical port of Byblos in rented buildings in Amsheet. In October 1991 classes started in the newly built campus at Blat overlooking Byblos; it was officially inaugurated on July 16, 1992.

According to a Board of Trustees decision, BUC became a university in October 1992. In 1994, the Board of Regents in New York approved BUC’s request to change its name to the Lebanese American University (LAU), reflecting its further growth and the addition of several professional schools.

In 1999, the Lebanese government granted LAU a license to operate a medical school and a nursing school. The first pre-medical students were admitted to LAU in the fall semester of 2006-07; in fall 2009, the Gilbert and Rose-Marie School of Medicine welcomed its first class of medical students. In September 2007, the Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the School of Nursing and in fall 2010, the Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing welcomed its first class of students.

A major milestone in the recognition of the quality of LAU’s education occurred on May 13, 2010, when the Board of Trustees of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) voted to grant LAU initial accreditation with the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education effective November 11, 2009.

Also in testament to the high quality of LAU’s professional schools, the School of Pharmacy has been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmaceutical Education (ACPE) since 2002.  This school is the only school of pharmacy accredited by the ACPE outside the United States. Similarly, in the Summer of 2011, all LAU engineering programs (Electrical, Civil, Computer, Industrial and Mechanical Engineering) became fully accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The Bachelor of Science degree program in Computer Science is also accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET, www.abet.org. More recently, the Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing gained accreditation with the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), at the end of 2013. Other professional schools are pursuing accreditation in their respective disciplines.

Back in July 2009, LAU bought Rizk Hospital, which is known today as the Lebanese American University Medical Center–Rizk Hospital (LAUMC-RH), to complement LAU’s teaching mission by providing health services to the Lebanese and regional communities; provide training and clinical rotation sites to LAU’s School of Pharmacy, the Alice Ramez Chagoury School of Nursing, and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine; allow the implementation of the innovative integrated team teaching involving medical doctors, pharmacists and nurses; and enhance research in basic sciences.

In the latest milestone in LAU’s development, the university  bought a property in mid-town Manhattan in 2012 that will serve as the LAU Headquarters and Academic Center in New York. LAU is the first American university operating overseas to open an academic center in New York and already the center is hosting numerous academic activities.

Last modified: September 26, 2017