Management Response to Improve the Educational Performance of Engineering Students: The Case of the Lebanese International University

Management Response to Improve the Educational Performance of Engineering Students: The Case of the Lebanese International University

Bassam Hussein (Lebanese International University, Lebanon), Ali Hage-Diab (Lebanese International University, Lebanon), Mohammad Hammoud (Lebanese International University, Lebanon), Anwar Kawtharani (Lebanese International University, Lebanon), Hisham El-Hage (Lebanese International University, Lebanon) and Amin Haj-Ali (Lebanese International University, Lebanon)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5067-1.ch006

Abstract

This case presents the managerial techniques applied to improve the quality of engineering education at the largest private university in Lebanon, the Lebanese International University (LIU). As the university grew rapidly since its inception 10 years ago, it faced serious challenges in fulfilling a key objective of its mission, which is to empower students to be culturally engaged to achieve innovative outcomes. A team was put together to identify cultural factors affecting quality of education, students’ achievement, assess their impact, and propose a plan of action. The findings led to a series of actions aimed at improving English language proficiency, smoothing high school/college transition, encouraging hands on laboratory experience, establishing industrial COOP program, and preparing for international accreditation. The new programs have been in effect for approximately one year. Quantitative evaluation of the programs is not yet fully available. Nevertheless, there are already some tangible indicators that suggest successful outcomes.
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Organization Background

The Lebanese International University (LIU), founded in 2000, is the largest and fastest growing post war era private university in Lebanon. Presently, LIU has approximately 15000 students enrolled in its five schools: pharmacy, engineering, education, arts and science, and business. This figure represents 13% of the overall number of students enrolled in private higher education institutes in Lebanon (WB, 2012). In addition, LIU employs over 1000 faculty and staff members. The university is managed by a university council led by the president as shown in LIU University Council organizational chart depicted in Figure 2 in the Appendix. With eight campuses spread across major cities and geographical regions throughout Lebanon, LIU has become the leading university among the country’s forty five private higher education institutions. LIU also has several locations and expansions in other Arab countries and internationally. There are campuses in Yemen, Senegal, Morocco and Mauritania (LIU, 2013). Additional sites are being planned in and out of Lebanon; some of which actual construction has started and are expected to be functional within the next three years. LIU’s mission states that the university strives to provide accessible and affordable quality higher education and to empower students to develop awareness and be culturally engaged to achieve innovative outcomes.

LIU’s School of Engineering (SoE) has around 3000 fulltime students enrolled in the following programs: surveying, mechanical, biomedical, electrical, electronics, computer, communications and computer, communications and industrial. Students usually complete a three years degree of Bachelor of Science (BS) in engineering followed by a two years program of Master of Science (MS) in engineering. According to the Lebanese laws and the Order of Engineers and Architects of Lebanon regulations, students are only allowed to practice the engineering profession if they complete the five years combined program successfully (OEA, 2011).

Since the inception of the SoE at LIU in 2002, over 1100 students have graduated with a BS degree and almost 250 students completed the MS program. Many of the graduates are practicing the engineering profession in Lebanon and other Arabic countries. A small percentage, less than 5%, is employed as engineers elsewhere across the globe. Students’ enrollment in LIU’s School of Engineering continues to be strong and is growing in numbers on a yearly basis. In 2012, LIU admitted around 1000 new students in its engineering programs. These students are supported by a solid SoE team of full-time and part-time faculty and staff led by the Dean of the school and his management team. Please refer to Figure 3 in the Appendix for the organizational chart of School of Engineering at LIU.

Like many other universities in Lebanon, the LIU follows the American System of education where courses are completed on a semester by semester basis. Typically, there are three semesters offered during the academic year. The Fall and Spring semesters last for around sixteen weeks, while the Summer semester has a duration of approximately six weeks. The well-known typical letter grading system is used to rate students’ performance. LIU adopts English as the principal teaching language although Arabic is the official language as per government regulation and the native language spoken by the majority of the population. It must be noted that all schools in Lebanon are mandated to teach a second foreign language, typically English or French. High school students undergo an official examination to be able to graduate successfully and these are conducted in English/French for all scientific materials.

The main mission of LIU since its inception has been to provide affordable and accessible quality education. The university leaders have realized that this is an extremely challenging goal, especially in a country that was ravaged by a civil war that lasted for fifteen years from 1975-1990. In a recent communication by LIU’s Vice President describing “who we are and what LIU stands for”, he states that:

We are an open university, where we give opportunity to all. We must hold each of our students’ hands and navigate together towards his/her successful completion and graduation. For students with deficiencies in academic background, language skills, studying skills, or financial situation where the student is obliged to work to pay his/her tuition, for these we hold their hands even tighter and we even carry them if necessary. This is LIU's mission. We are not a selective university; on the contrary we are an all-inclusive university where opportunities are created.

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