Lebanon’s 41 universities and 377 technical colleges have made it a regional centre for learning. One of the best known institutions, the American University of Beirut, has several specialised research facilities, including a leading medical school and business school. Other leading academic and research institutions include the Saint Joseph University, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, the United Nations research institute for more than 20 countries and the École Supérieur d’Administration, a leading Francophone business school.

Despite high levels of education, wage levels in Beirut have remained lower than many other developed cities: secretaries in Beirut earn an average of $7393 a year, middle managers $26,065 and manual workers $1.35 per hour.

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Beirut’s excellent skills pool is part of the reason that Lebanon has been able to sustain increasingly significant inflows of FDI. FDI inflows for 2003 have been estimated at $2bn.

Runner-up Haifa impressed the judges for its excellent universities and research centres, as did Doha in Qatar and Jubail in Saudi Arabia. Casablanca in Morocco also scored well for its education system.