The establishment of an educational institution, accessible financially and geographically to all, was a pressing dream for His Excellency Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In the early 1980s, PM Hariri chose Kfarfalous, an area between the South, Bekaa, and the mountains, to be the location for establishing a hospital and a university in collaboration with the University of Saint Joseph. However, the 1982 Israeli invasion led to the virtual destruction of the university and the theft of its equipment.
In 1984, the dream took a different turn with the establishment of the Rafik Hariri Foundation, a non-profit organization whose major goal was to provide the Lebanese youth with a chance for higher education in local and international universities. Around 33,000 Lebanese students benefited from the University Loan Program of the Rafik Hariri Foundation, and pursued their education in Lebanon, Europe, North Africa, and North America.
The end of the civil war in Lebanon led the Rafik Hariri Foundation to revive the dream of establishing an affordable, accessible university. The undertaking of such a project required the help of experts from a country that had made great strides in the field of education. Although several educationally advanced countries were considered, experts from Canada were eventually chosen for this collaboration. The programs of study at Rafik Hariri University were developed in association with a number of Canadian institutions, including the Canadian Bureau of International Education, the Canadian International Development Agency, Capilano University and Memorial University.
Rafik Hariri University opened its doors for the first time on September 15, 1999, with the College of Business Administration, according to Presidential Decree 1947. It opened with a student population of 75. After its Colleges of Engineering and Science and Information Systems were established, RHU was granted university status on June 19, 2006, by Decree Number 17192.