Announced by French President Emmanuel Macron during his visit to Lebanon in the aftermath of Beirut port explosion on August 4, 2020, Ma’akum targeted students who were already registered in French universities and whose parents had problems financing them due to the economic crisis and difficulties with money transfers, which worsened because of the Covid-19 pandemic, De Geoffroy said. (See a related article, “Lebanon’s Double Crisis Crushes Both Students and Universities.”)
The program, she said, is separate from the annual scholarships awarded by France to exceptional Lebanese students, a program whose budget was doubled for the academic year 2021-2022.
There is still no indication whether the Ma’akum plan will continue in the next academic year, De Geoffroy said.
“We are currently reviewing our support tools in order to re-adapt them to changing realities” in Lebanon, where the “acute deterioration of socio-economic conditions … is deeply affecting higher education,” she said. She noted that the number of Lebanese students seeking relocation in French universities has surged from 3,100 in 2019 to around 5,000 today.
Increasing scholarship grants and enhancing partnership programs, including co-funding and co-certification by French and Lebanese universities for undergraduate, master’s degree and Ph.D. students, are among the favored tools. At present, there are more than 500 partnership agreements and 40 co-certification accords between French and Lebanese higher-education establishments.
“These exchanges are beneficial in terms of the quality of education and partnership and extremely crucial in maintaining and reinforcing the francophone culture in Lebanon,” De Geoffroy said.
Support at American-Affiliated Universities
While France was one of the first countries to pledge support for Lebanon in the wake of the Beirut port explosion, American-affiliated universities have also seen an increase in financial support and grants to their students since the onset of the economic crisis, which resulted in blocking depositors’ bank accounts, steep devaluation of the Lebanese pound, and severe unemployment amid persisting political deadlock. (See a related article, “University Professors Feel the Pain of Lebanon’s Worsening Crisis.”)