University of Liberia
|Motto||Lux ex tenebris (Latin)|
Motto in English
|Light out of darkness|
|President||Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks|
Monrovia campus (urban)|
Fendell campus (rural)
National Commission on Higher Education|
Association of African Universities
The University of Liberia (UL or LU in older versions of abbreviation) is a publicly funded institution of higher learning located in Monrovia, Liberia. Authorized by the national government in 1851, the school opened in 1863 as Liberia College and became a university in 1951. The school is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in West Africa and is accredited by the Liberian Commission on Higher Education. Civil wars have disrupted and damaged the school over the last three decades.
The University of Liberia has six colleges, three professional schools (including a law school and medical school), and three graduate programs with a total of approximately 18,000 students at its three campuses in and around the country's capital city. UL also has five institutes for study in areas such as the Chinese language and population research. The law school is the only one in Liberia. Graduates have gone on to leadership roles in Liberian politics including former President Arthur Barclay.
In 1847, Liberia declared its independence from the American Colonization Society. In 1851 the new national legislature authorized the creation of a state college and chartered Liberia College. Financing was provided by the New York Colonization Society and the Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia, both United States organizations. These two groups provided almost all of the funds for the school during the 19th century and were responsible for hiring the faculty.
After authorization, groups from Clay Ashland and Monrovia maneuvered in political circles in an attempt to have the school in their cities, with the location eventually chosen as the capital city. This political battle delayed the foundation; on 25 January 1858, the cornerstone of the first building was laid in Monrovia. In January 1862 the school was inaugurated, with classes beginning in 1863. The nation’s first president, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, became the school’s first president in 1862 and served in that post until 1876.
Seven men made up the first class of students, with a college preparatory division adding 18 students to the enrollment two months later. In addition to American financing, colleges and individuals from the United States donated books and even the bricks and lumber used to construct the school’s building. At opening, the library had an estimated 4,000 volumes. Once classes opened, the curriculum was the standard courses typical at American colleges with courses such as rhetoric and Latin. Part of the impetus to start the school was a concern that some Liberians were already leaving the nation to study in Great Britain, which American backers thought might lead to a move away from the republican form of government.
During the 19th century, sophomores and freshmen would battle each other in an annual ritual over whether the freshmen were allowed to wear trousers. From 1866 to 1902 the school had 10 graduates with long periods between the granting of degrees. Under the leadership of Edward Wilmot Blyden, school president from 1881 to 1884, women were allowed to enroll in the preparatory department. During the 1800s UL and country suffered from class and caste conflicts, which led to the temporary closure of Liberia College on several occasions in the 1890s. R. B. Richardson was the first alumnus to become the president of the school.
The School of Forestry at the college was founded in 1942 by Stephen A. Tolbert, who served as dean of that school until 1960. Enrollment increased at the university to approximately 70 students in 1948 and to 100 in 1950. In 1951, J. Max Bond, Sr. helped to convert the college into the University of Liberia. Also in 1951, the Law School was established and named after former Liberia Supreme Court Chief Justice Louis Arthur Grimes. In 1956, the now university had an enrollment of 259 students.
In 1968, a medical school was added to the university. Due to civil strife in the country, UL has closed on several occasions including in 1979, 1984, and 1990. In one incident in 1984, students and the faculty of the University of Liberia protested the arrest of two faculty members by the Liberian government. Liberian President Samuel K. Doe sent the Liberian Army to attack the school on 22 August 1984, leading to several deaths, more than one hundred injured, a three-month closure, and destruction of some of the facilities. It did not grant any degrees from 1989 to 1996 due to the fighting from the First Liberian Civil War. When UL re-opened in 1997 enrollment totaled 6,000 students, though the civil war had damaged facilities at the university and led many of the faculty to leave the country. The last of the strife ended with the conclusion of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.
In 2007, the American Bar Association paid for renovations to the law school. In April of that year the university opened a new 200 computer digital center paid for by a private company. In June 2007, the school’s president suspended classes after a faculty strike over back wages owed by the government, with classes re-opened in July. In February 2008, U.S. President George W. Bush visited the campus during a state visit to Liberia.
China funded a USD $21.5 million expansion at the Fendall Campus that began in April 2008 and will add more than five buildings. In March 2009, construction began at that campus of the new Angie Brooks International Center for Women's Research, Peace and Security, named in honor of Angie Brooks, who was the first female president of the United Nations General Assembly. Emmet Dennis became the 13th president of the university that month as enrollment topped 18,000. The Harvey S. Firestone Quadrangle Science Building at the main campus was renovated by Firestone Liberia and re-opened in November 2009.
The university is the oldest degree-granting school in West Africa, and is accredited by Liberia’s Commission on Higher Education. Classes are taught in English with the academic year running from March through December. Undergraduate students earn bachelor's degrees after four years of instruction, while the graduate programs offer master's degrees after two years of post-graduate work. Doctorates in medicine are conferred after the completion of a seven-year program.
As of 2009, there were 17,620 students enrolled at the university in all departments, of which 13,009 are men and 4,611 women. This made the school the largest by enrollment in Liberia. UL had a total of 331 faculty members at that time. The faculty was male dominated with 304 men and 27 women.
The school is divided into six colleges, three graduate programs, and three professional schools. Colleges at the University of Liberia include the Liberia College of Social Sciences and Humanities, the College of Business and Public Administration, the College of General Studies, and the T. J. R. Faulkner College of Science and Technology. Additionally, there are the William V. S. Tubman Teachers College and the William R. Tolbert College of Agriculture and Forestry, both named after former presidents of the nation.
Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, the only law school in Liberia, was added into the university in 1951. The A. M. Dogliotti College of Medicine was opened in a partnership between Italy's A. M. Dogliotti Foundation and the government of Liberia. Students of the medical school are required to give one year of service in rural areas after graduation. The School of Pharmacy is the third professional school, while graduate programs include the Ibrahim B. Babangida Graduate Program in International Relations, the Graduate Program in Regional Science, and the Graduate Program in Education Administration.
In addition to the schools and departments of study, UL houses five institutes. These are the Institute for Research, Institute for Population Studies, Kofi A. Annan Center for Conflict Transformation, Center for Millennium Development Goals, and the Confucius Institute. The Confucius Institute teaches the Chinese language and is in cooperation with the Changsha University of Science and Technology.
The publicly funded university is divided into three campuses. The main, original campus in downtown Monrovia, a medical campus, and the Fendall campus, about 14 miles northeast of Monrovia. The College of Agriculture and Forestry is at the rural Fendell Campus. The university provides four buses to transport students between these campuses. The main campus was originally designed by J. Max Bond, Sr., who the president of the school in the early 1950s.
Radio station LUX 106.6 FM is operated by the school.
Alumni includes past and present Liberian politicians and academics. These include Liberia's Vice President Joseph Boakai and former presidents Arthur Barclay and Joseph James Cheeseman. Candidates for the 2005 Presidential Election included UL alums Nathaniel Barnes, Varney Sherman, Togba-Nah Tipoteh, and Joseph Woah-Tee. The chairperson, Jerome Verdier, and the vice-chair, Dede Dolopei, of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are alumni. Other alumni are attorney Francis Y.S. Garlawolu, Chief Justice Johnnie Lewis, politician Charles Brumskine, Foreign Minister Olubanke King Akerele, and former United States Ambassador to Liberia and founder of the Maryland Industrial and Agricultural Institute for Colored Youths, Ernest Lyon among others.
Former presidents and faculty
- Edward Wilmot Blyden, president (1881–1884)
- J. Max Bond, Sr., president (1950–1954)
- Mary Antoinette Brown-Sherman, president (1978-1984)
- Orator F. Cook, president (1896-1897)
- Martin Henry Freeman, president
- Garretson W. Gibson, president (1892–1896)
- A. Doris Banks Henries, professor (1942-1958)
- Vusumzi Make, professor (1968–1974)
- Rocheforte Lafayette Weeks, president (1961–1972)
- Cletus Wotorson, professor
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