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The State of Libya is located on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. It is bordered by Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria and Tunisia. At 82%, Libya has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. From the middle of the 16th century until 1911, Libya was part of the Ottoman Turk Empire, and was its last stronghold along the North African coast. Italy eventually seized this territory and, under Italian rule, the separate areas of Tripoli and Cyrenaica were united into a single colony. With Italy's defeat in World War II, Libya (as it was named during Italian occupation) became a United Nations mandate.

When independence was granted to by the United Nations General Assembly on December 24, 1951, Libya was the first country to receive independence under the auspices of the United Nations. At that point, Libya was introduced as a constitutional and hereditary monarchy with Sheikh Sidi Idris (former Emir of Cyrenaica) declared king.

A significant turning point in the history of Libya was the discovery of oil in 1959. With this discovery came instant wealth, primarily for the elite population of the country, and became the focus of other Arab countries, specifically Egypt, where Nasser was looking to unify the Arab world. King Idris was unaffected by the increasing turmoil among the people of Libya and did nothing about Nasser's moves toward unification.

As a reaction to this inactivity, in September of 1969, a young military officer by the name of Mu'ammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi, along with a small group of other soldiers, staged a coup d'etat and forced Idris back into exile to Egypt. This new regime, the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) eliminated the monarchy and announced the new Libyan Arab Republic. Qadhafi eventually was declared the de facto chief of state. In 2012 Qadhafi was deposed and replaced by a governing council.


Education in Libya is free at all levels, including universities. The language of instruction is Arabic. Compulsory education is 8 years beginning at age 7. At ages 4 and 5, kindergarten is available.

Primary Education

Basic education is 9 years and is divided into three cycles of three years each. Students are awarded a Basic Education Certificate upon completion of basic education.

Secondary Education

Secondary education is offered at specialized secondary schools, vocational secondary schools, and intermediate training institutes. Specialized secondary schools are 4 years and students are awarded a Secondary Education Certificate upon completion. Vocational secondary and intermediate training institutes offer 4-year programs and award an Intermediate Training Diploma upon completion.

Post-Secondary Education

Higher technical and vocational institutes and universities offer post-secondary programs. Admission to all post-secondary programs requires a grade of 65% on the Secondary Education Certificate for admission. Medicine and engineering programs require a grade of 75%. Higher technical and vocational institutes offer 3-year technical and vocational programs, and students are awarded a Higher Technician Diploma upon completion. Higher technical and vocational institutes also offer 4- and 5-year programs which award bachelors degrees.

There are 13 universities in Libya. The first university, Libyan University, opened in 1951. In 1973, Libyan University was divided into two universities: University of Tripoli (now known as University of El-Fateh) and University of Benghazi (now known as University of Gar-Yunis). Bachelors degree programs are 4 years long (architecture and engineering are 5 years). Masters degree programs are 2 years following a bachelors degree. Most masters programs are offered at University of El-Fateh and University of Gar-Yunis, and the majority of students are in Arabic, Islamic studies, social sciences and humanities programs. Two-year Advanced Diploma programs are also available after a bachelors degree. Doctoral programs have extremely low enrollments and are not available in science, technology and engineering.

Teacher Training

Basic education and secondary school teachers are trained at higher teacher training institutes and require a Secondary Education Certificate or an Intermediate Training Diploma for admission. Basic education teacher training programs are 4 years long and secondary school teacher training programs are also 4 years long followed by 8 months of specialized training.

Teachers are prepared at post-secondary teacher training institutes which are 4-year programs requiring a Secondary Education Certificate for admission. Upon completion, students are awarded a Basic Education Teaching Certificate or a Secondary School Teaching Certificate, depending on their program of study. Teacher training institutes also offer a 5-year program for students who hold a Basic Education Certificate. Graduates of this program are awarded a Secondary Education Certificate and are qualified to teach at the lower level of the Basic Education Cycle.

Robert Watkins

Special Assistant to the Director, University of Texas at Austin


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