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The American University of Beirut is moving ahead with plans to open a campus in Cyprus, its first campus outside Lebanon.

The Mediterranean island nation, just a short ferry ride from Beirut, won out against 15 other potential host countries due to advantages including academic freedom and economic stability, the Associated Press reported.

AUB president Fadlo Khuri and Cyprus president Nicos Christodoulides laid the symbolic first stone for the campus, called American University of Beirut–Mediterraneo, in the western city of Paphos last week. Classes are set to begin in the fall, and the Cypriot government will provide residences for students until the first phase of construction is completed.

The campus will offer five undergraduate programs and two master’s degrees and enroll between 800 and 1,200 students in the fall, eventually increasing capacity to 2,500 when construction is complete.

AUB has been planning its global expansion since 2018 but expedited the process in 2020 after the Beirut port explosion.

The 158-year-old university has been struggling financially in recent years as Lebanon’s political instability—combined with growing competition from regional universities and branch campuses in nearby Arab Gulf states—have led to faculty exodus and enrollment declines. But Khuri told the AP that the expansion to Cyprus wasn’t an attempt to escape Lebanon.

“I cannot stress enough that the American University of Beirut, which has a long history of offering our finest service to Lebanon in the most profound crises, will remain deeply rooted in Lebanon and continue operating its flagship Beirut campus, no matter what happens,” he said. “Going global is the main objective from expanding to Cyprus.”