The University of Balamand


The University of Balamand

Source: Monasteries of Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchate, University of Balamand Publications, 2007.     

 

   In 1979, Ignatius Hazim was raised to the Patriarchal throne as Ignatius IV.  His Beatitude continued to oversee the progress of Balamand, and his efforts culminated in the foundation of the University of Balamand, a signal contribution by the Church to the spiritual and cultural growth of modern Lebanon.  The University was founded in 1988, during the Lebanese war.  This action expressed the Orthodox Church’s rejection of the war and its desire to create a completely changed setting for the reintegration of Lebanese youth.  Affirming a spirit of scientific and cultural openness, the University’s constitution aims at strengthening a climate of peace, so that a unified, democratic Lebanon might be restored and the spirit of inter-confessional dialogue encouraged.  In order to achieve this mission, ‘the University of Balamand attempts to stamp every graduate with a certain morality which can be defined as: faith in God, confidence in self, respect for heritage, acceptance of the other, humility before the truth, and effective service of society’.

University of Balamand
 President: H.E Dr. Elie Salem
Postal Address: University of Balamand, P.O Box 100, Tripoli, Lebanon
 Tel: +961 6 930 250
Fax: +961 6 930 278
E-mail:  president@balamand.edu.lb
WebSite: www.balamand.edu.lb

   The site of Balamand was chosen in part because it met a pressing local need: no university existed in North Lebanon, and many high school graduates from the region could not afford university studies in Beirut.  Moreover, the land belonging to the monastery on the hill of Balamand was more than sufficient for a large campus.  Finally, a university at this splendid site could draw upon the long cultural heritage of the monastery. 

   The University campus covers forty-five hectares and includes over thirty buildings and an athletic stadium, each one realized by the generous donations of benefactors.  There are further building projects for the near future.  The architectural plan of the University is in harmony with the monastery, which remains as the central element of the growing complex on the hill of Balamand.  Many of the university buildings have large glass-roofed areas and interior gardens, and the original olive groves of the site have been largely preserved. 

    The cornerstone for the first University building was laid in February, 1988.  In June, 1988, the Lebanese government authorized the University to operate three faculties: Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts, St John of Damascus Institute of Theology, and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.  In October that year, the first intake of forty-two students was admitted to the new Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.  Over the following years, studies began in Business and Management, sciences, and applied sciences; at the same time, several educational, cultural, and scientific projects were undertaken.  In 1996, four more Faculties gained official recognition: Business and Management, Health Sciences, Sciences, and Engineering.  The School of Tourism and Hotel Management opened in 1999.  An officially recognized Faculty of Medicine and Medical Sciences, which functions in close association with the prestigious St George Hospital of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Beirut, was founded in 2000.  The new Faculty has buildings at Balamand and in Beirut.  The latest academic project is a Center for Marine Studies, to be sited on the seashore beside the Convent of Dayr al-Natour, several kilometers from the main campus. 

   The University offers Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees based on the American system of units and credits.  The teaching program is offered in Arabic, English, and French, with an emphasis on English as the prevailing international language, especially in science and technology.  Most students are enrolled in scientific and practical programs, but the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is the University’s academic hub, offering two-year programs in both Cultural Studies and Languages, and a wide range of elective courses.  Through these programs, students broaden their education and develop their faculties of critical thinking.  This Faculty especially preserves and nurtures the University’s founding ethos, with its emphasis on the ‘morality of knowledge’.  

   The University also includes two specialist research centers.  In 1987, a Center for Antiochian Orthodox Studies was founded to collect and document the Church’s manuscript and archive heritage.  In 1991, it joined the University and continued its efforts in preserving the Antiochian Church’s heritage, encouraging historical studies, and undertaking sociological research on the Orthodox community in the Near East.  Secondly, the Center for Christian-Muslim Studies was established at the University in 1995 with the aim of studying Christianity and Islam positively in order to strengthen ties between Muslims and Christians.  The Center organizes conferences and seminars, and it cooperates with other institutions engaged in the field of Islamic-Christian dialogue.

   Besides its academic and research programs, the University promotes the spread of culture, among its students and in North Lebanon generally, through conferences on non-academic subjects, various artistic exhibitions, especially in drawing and interior decoration, music recitals, poetry readings, and drama productions.  These events have frequently included well-known local and international artists and performers.

   In order to promote its international standing, the University has established formal joint agreements with prominent universities in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Russia.  It has also forged close ties with the numerous and well-established Antiochian Orthodox diaspora in the West; several large European and American cities now have local Friendly Associations of the University of Balamand, which have provided much of the financial support required for the University’s growth.  More generally, the University is constantly establishing closer relations with the wider Near Eastern community abroad, whose members generally remain strongly attached to their cultural roots. 

   The student body has increased steadily since the University’s foundation.  In 2006, it surpassed three thousand in all nine faculties.  It has a marked international aspect: although ninety percent of the student body holds Lebanese nationality, many of them belong to the Lebanese communities abroad.  In addition, an increasing number of non-Lebanese Arab students are enrolling.  The University aims to raise foreign student numbers significantly, and is expanding student dormitory capacity to house five hundred students.  Faculty accommodation is also being expanded, so that a lively campus atmosphere is gradually developing at the rural site of Balamand.

   A scholarship fund is allocated in the annual budget for the benefit of deserving students.  The fund is increased by many donations and further reinforced by the student work program, which permits students to take up paid work in the administrative offices of the University.  A special Office of Student Affairs encourages a whole range of student clubs offering such activities as sports, folk dancing, choirs, cinema, and theater.