Study abroad for 5,000 former revolutionaries

In an effort to reconstruct civil war-damaged Libya, 5,000 former rebels will be sent to study abroad this year, according to Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Mohamed Hassan Abu Bakr. They are the first of 18,000 revolutionaries who are registered and eligible for study abroad.

An agreement on the initiative was signed in the presence of the director of the Warriors Affairs Commission, or WAC, Mustafa Sagezli and Ahmed Al-Banouni, director of WAC’s board for foreign study programmes, according to the Libya Herald.

“The programme aims at building a new Libya. It is a move from a military era to one of knowledge and construction of the country”, Sagezli was quoted in Libya Herald as saying. The decision to send the 5,000 Libyans was “historic”, Sagezli added.

There are 18,000 former revolutionaries registered with the WAC, which said priority would be given to those who already had diplomas and-or were disabled as a results of injuries sustained during fighting.

The Libyan government agreed in April to send 18,000 registered revolutionaries to continue studies abroad – especially in Arab states, Europe and the United States – and the 5,000 represent the first batch.

They will be followed by 4,000 more in 2014, 4,500 in 2015 and 4,500 in 2016. The period of study will be three years for a masters degree and four years for a PhD, completely funded by the government and in fields related to Libya’s development needs.


A report published last year by the non-profit US-based Rand Corporation, titled Libya’s Post-Qaddafi Transition – The nation-building challenge, argued:

“The vast majority of Libya's militias are likely concerned primarily with their security and economic futures and should be amenable to demobilisation through a combination of financial rewards, promise of adequate social standing and, above all, assurances that laying down their arms will not jeopardise their safety or that of their community.”

It was in line with this thinking that the study-abroad programme was planned. Fortunately, Libya has the largest proven oil deposits in Africa, which means that with the right political leadership the question of funding is not a pressing concern for policy-makers, according to a July 2013 report, Education in a Transitional Libya, by World Education Services.

The initiative should not only help reintegrate former rebels but also develop the skills needed to build a post-Gaddafi nation and reform a weak higher education sector.

With six million people, 70% of them under the age of 30, Libya has 13 state universities and seven private universities, which educate some 300,000 students. The unemployment rate is 30% and this one of the main factors contributing to unrest that led to Gaddafi’s overthrowing.

Libyan universities do not rate highly in global rankings and are not included among Africa’s top 100 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2012-13. In the World Economic Forum’s 2012-13 Global Competitiveness Report, Libya was ranked 142 out of 144 countries for the quality of its education system.

Expert view

Libyan higher education expert Amal Rhema, who is based at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, welcomed the study-abroad initiative.

“Education is the only way for Libyans to come out of the war and progress towards a better future. Education is seen as a crucial factor for reforming Libya in general and for preparing its revolutionaries for life after the revolution,” Rhema told University World News.

“Most of those revolutionaries were civilians before the 2011 revolution. Resistance to Gaddafi forces pushed many revolutionaries to participate in the uprisings, marking the beginning of a process of large-scale militarisation of civilians.

“The initiative to send former revolutionaries back to university is a crucial step in rebuilding the country as it will enable those who have been scarred by the war to adapt back to civilian life,” Rhema added. “In doing so, educated former revolutionaries will be channelling their aspirations and energy into a constructive effort of rebuilding Libya.”