Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued a decree on Thursday amending a law regulating Al-Azhar's institutions, allowing the expulsion of staff members and students in case of involvement in violence.
A presidential spokesman, Alaa Youssef, said the new decision is meant to restore stability to the Islamic Al-Azhar University, the epicentre of anti-government protests after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi last year. Hundreds of Al-Azhar students have since been detained or imprisoned over violence charges.
According to the new amendment, faculty members, university staff and students may be expelled if they are found to be involved in acts that obstruct the educational process or undermine the status of Al-Azhar University, the world's highest seat of Sunni Islam learning.
These include participating or inciting protests, rioting, inciting violence, damaging university facilities, as well as faculty members giving private tutoring.
Students can only be dismissed after a seven-day investigation carried out by the university administration, and decisions can be appealed before a higher administrative court.
Despite tightened security at campuses since the start of the new term almost two weeks ago, smaller student protests have resumed, often descending into clashes with riot police that have so far left one student dead in Alexandria.
El-Sisi on Thursday issued another presidential decree to appoint the deans of 10 faculties across five public universities, including the universities of Cairo and Suez.
In July, El-Sisi issued a decree reintroducing the direct appointment of university heads – a system enforced before the 2011 uprising but which later gave way to elections.
The move has sparked anxiety within the university community, with critics saying the changes jeopardise the independence of schools.