University of Liberia (UL) History

University of Liberia (UL) History

The early years

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Liberia College 1893The University of Liberia was founded in 1862 as Liberia College and became a full University in 1951. It is a public institution funded mainly by the Government of Liberia. The University now has five campuses. They are   Capitol Hill, Medical School, Old and New Fendall, located in Monrovia and Johnsonville, Monsterrado County, and the Starz-Sinji campus located in Sinji, Grand Cape Mount County. The institution is accredited by the Liberian Commission on Higher Education in (put year here).

During its early formative years, financing for Liberia College provided by the New York Colonization Society and the Trustees of Donation for Education in Liberia (TDEL), both were United States based organizations. The donations laid the cornerstone and financed the first building on January 25, 1858.

Beneath this effort was the belief that the “Republic of Liberia ought to have within itself the means of educating its citizens for all the duties of public and private.” Against this background, Professor Simon Greenleaf, the Harvard College Law Professor, who drafted Liberia’s Independence Constitution in 1847, led the effort to establish Liberia College.

JJROBERTSIn 1862, the first President of the Republic of Liberia, Honorable Joseph Jerkins Roberts, was inaugurated as the first President of Liberia College. Working with two professors, Rev. Alexander Cromwell and Professor Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden, President Roberts opened the doors of Liberia College in February 1863 to seven students.

However, for most of the next 90 years, the college had to struggle to overcome numerous obstacles to maintain its existence and integrity. As the sovereignty of the Liberian State remained challenged, so was uncertainty about the survival of Liberia College. The college was forced to close its doors on at least three separate occasions during this period. The Liberian State and the college managed to survive, however.

Graduates were few, but the role that the leadership of the college played in Liberian society was significant, as were the contributions of its graduates.

Philanthropists, beginning with the Trustees of Donation for Education in Liberia, provided a welcome, but limited resource for the college until the Tubman era (1943-71), when financial resources became available to the Liberia State, following the successful cultivation of rubber and the discovery of iron ore deposits in Liberia. Favorable prices for these commodities in the 1950s raised Liberian public sector revenues more than eight fold in a decade.

The effects on the larger society of the resulting favorable terms of trade monetized a hitherto barter economy, leading to phenomenal public sector growth. That growth resulted in higher demand in the public sector for managerial and technical labor. Further, the need for capacity in the technical positions established in the new sectors caused the Liberian Government to appreciate the need for higher education through a national university.

The period of great triumph  

Consequently, in 1951, the Legislature of the Republic chartered the University of Liberia.

Whereas Liberia College had been established to prepare the nation’s Clergymen and public officials, the national University among other goals, sought to become a: “…center of learning with high academic standards which is dedicated to the pursuit, promotion and dissemination of knowledge with emphasis on practical knowledge which is immediately useful to economic, social and cultural development needs.”

Liberia College and the University of Liberia have made significant impact on the Liberian society. Leaders of the college were frequently the leaders of the nation. In the 1870s, the college’s leadership was at the center of national political developments, a fact reflected in President Joseph Jenkins Roberts’ retirement from the presidency of the college to assume the presidency of Liberia for the second time in 1876.

Wilmot BlydenOther national leaders who served the college as President included Professor Dr. Edward W. Blyden, the erudite Pan-Africanist scholar, diplomat and political activist, who served as a Secretary of State of Liberia. Liberia’s former president Garretson W. Gibson was also President of Liberia College. President Arthur Barclay, the first graduate of Liberia College in 1873, was president of his Alma mater from 1901 to 1902, and again from 1914 to 1917. Arthur Barclay succeeded J.J. Dossen, the future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia. At the conclusion of his term as President of the College, Barclay was succeeded by Charles D. B. King, who himself served as President of Liberia between 1920 and 1930.

President Charles D. B. King’s Secretary of State, Edwin J. Barclay, a graduate of Liberia College in 1903, succeeded him as President of Liberia. Edwin Barclay, as King’s Secretary of State, negotiated the Firestone Plantations Agreement of 1926.

Leaders, graduates and former students of the University of Liberia also contributed significantly to African development. University and College graduates, who served the nation, also served Africa and the larger international community.

Prior to Ghana’s independence in 1957, Liberia was the foremost activist promoting and financing the Africa independence movement. From Nmandi Azikwe to Sam Njoma; from Nelson Mandela to Robert Mugabe; from Julius Nyerere to Jomo Kenyatta; from Ahmed Ben Bella to Ahmed Sekou Toure; from Hastings Kamuzu Banda, to Kwame Nkrumah and Sir Alhaji Abubakar Tafewa Belewa, each came to consult Liberian leaders; most enhanced their leadership through interaction with Liberia’s former Secretary of State J. Rudolph Grimes (Alumnus of Liberia College Class of 1943) and William R. Tolbert (Class of 1934). Most of these leaders were initiated into the fraternity of the University of Liberia honoris causa honor society.

Important roles Liberian leaders – graduates of the College or the University -played in African affairs

William R. Tolbert, Jr. (Class of ‘34), as Tubman’s special Envoy, was pivotal in ending the Biafran War when his shuttle diplomacy resulted in the famous meeting in Monrovia between Dr. Azikwe and General Yakubu Gowon. Rocheforte L. Weeks (Class of ’44 and President of the University of Liberia from 1959 to 1972) and foreign Minister of Liberia (1972), was a member of Liberia’s legal team who appeared before the International Court of Justice in the case against South Africa’s illegal occupation of the then Southwest Africa (Now Namibia).

W. Oliver Bright (Class of ‘56) and D. Franklin Neal (Class ‘52), under Secretary of State Grimes’ leadership and supervision, drafted the Charter of the Organization of African Unity (OAU, now known as the African Union). An unsolicited draft of the Charter submitted as a working document, inspired the proponents, thus ending the fractious division between the Monrovia and Casablanca Powers. Neal also supervised the drafting of the Treaty of League, the agreement that created the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS). A former dean of the College Business and Public Administration of the University of Liberia, A. Romeo Horton, who became the first Managing Director of the ECOWAS Fund, formed part of the small group that drafted the instrument for establishment of the African Development Bank.

SawyerThe significant contribution of this institution to national life has continued unabated. During the Liberian civil war, a large number of graduates of the University continued to accept the call to national service.

Many of its alumni, former professors and deans, assumed pivotal roles in the Liberian peace process, including Professors Amos C. Sawyer, and the late Professor Wilton Sankawulo, who served as Interim Heads of State of the Republic.

The turbulent times

The civil war reduced the capacity of the University of Liberia to respond adequately to the production of competitive human resources that can generate and manage sustainable social, economic development activities in Liberia.

Like most institutions in Liberia, the University of Liberia also suffered during the Liberian civil war. For a period spanning three decades, this great institution lost faculty, with many of its buildings and facilities either destroyed or damaged as a result of the war.

For example, more than 90% of the University’s facilities, including computers, books, and typewriters were looted and pillaged. More than three-fourths of its library collections of about 2 million volumes of texts, periodicals and rare books were ruined. Seventy percent of the Main campus’s science complex and 50% of the medical dormitories were damaged.

The percentage of damaged facilities was as high as 80% in many buildings on the Capitol Hill and Medical School campuses while the Fendall campus, where the University had relocated before the war, was destroyed. The minimum damage done to any single building was more than 85%.

The post-conflict/modern era

The challenges to restoring the University to a quality institution of higher learning are daunting but it can be done. Although we have destroyed our limited facilities, we must respond to enrollment that has increased from pre-war level of 9,500 to about 35,000 in 2015.

The University of Liberia has seven colleges, four graduate programs and three professional schools. Colleges at the University of Liberia include – College of Social Sciences and Humanities (Liberia College), College of Business and Public Administration, College of General Studies, T.J.R. Faulkner College of Science and Technology, William V.S. Tubman Teachers College, William R. Tolbert, Jr. College Agriculture and Forestry, and Straz-Sinje Technical and Vocational Middle College.

The graduate programs include – Ibrahim B. Babangida Graduate Program in International Relations (IBB), Graduate Program in Regional Planning (GPRP), Graduate Program in Educational (GPED), and Graduate Program in Business and Public Administration (MBA/MPA).

The professional schools are Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, A. M. Dogliotti College of Medicine, and School of Pharmacy. The University of Liberia also has the Kofi Annan Institute of Peace and Conflict Transformation, the Institute of Population Studies and the Confucius Institute.

The Future

The University of Liberia has global objectives, an objective that endeavors to make the University a modern, 21 Century institution.

The General strategic plans for the five undergraduate colleges, three professional schools, five graduate programs and all the administrative and support departments of the University to guide its way forward through the 21st Century are summarized below:

vCreate a framework for devising new academic programs, centers and institutes in response to the post-war challenges in Liberia;

vExamine the Long Range Plan of the University by comparing it with realities of the transitional period with the view of updating it to an implementable program for the relocation of the University to its Fendall Campus by the Year 2011;

vReview the current resource support and input arrangements by identifying sources and means of supporting the University through workable  mechanisms;

vReview the current framework of the administration of the Graduate Programs by reassessing their structures and relationship to the existing colleges with the goal of organizing a new, graduate administrative structure;

vReview the Charter of the University and recommend changes in the purview of the postwar needs of the country;

vAnd review the current scope of regional and international cooperation in order to recommend new institutional arrangements, in the context of current, global trends and needs of the University.

See Also

University of Liberia (UL) Admission Requirements

University of Liberia (UL) Undergraduate Programs

University of Liberia (UL) Graduate Programs

University of Liberia (UL) Professional Programs

Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law (LAGL)

University of Liberia (UL) Courses Offered

University of Liberia (UL) Fees Structure

University of Liberia (UL) Entrance Exams and Results 

Admissions for All Universities in Liberia