Egypt police to guard universities outside campus grounds: PM
Ahram Online, Thursday 31 Oct 2013
Police can enter campus grounds on invitation of university head, Egypt PM adds, after recent university clashes across country

Egypt's Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi announced on Thursday that police forces will be permitted to guard universities from outside campus grounds, Al-Ahram's Arabic website reported.

The decision comes as universities across Egypt have witnessed mounting tensions since the beginning of the academic year in September.

El-Beblawi said police forces will be dispatched around campuses to assist the universities' private security services in their identity checks and car searches.

University heads are entitled to invite police forces to enter university premises, El-Beblawi added. Police forces will also be allowed to intervene after obtaining authorisation by the prosecution.

Since the start of the academic year, supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi have organised several protests across Egyptian universities. Their demonstrations have often escalated into clashes with students supportive of the military, who announced Morsi's ouster in July following mass protests against his rule.

At Cairo's Al-Azhar University on Wednesday, tens of students participated in a march through the campus, storming and ransacking the main administrative building. Following a request from the university, Egyptian police then entered the prestigious Islamic institution to confront the protesters.

It was the first time police had entered a university since a 2010 court ruling banned interior ministry personnel from operating on university grounds, a police general told AFP.

In October 2010, Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court upheld a ruling to remove police – notorious for their heavy-handed tactics and their targeting of politically active student body members – from university campuses. The decision was effectively applied in March 2011. Administrative security guards were hired instead.

On Thursday, El-Beblawi expressed his regret regarding the university riots, saying that academic centres should be valued like places of worship. He also said violence on campuses will be dealt with firmly.

Since Morsi's ouster, Egypt has witnessed a volatile security situation, with protests organised by Morsi supporters often escalating into street clashes against opposing protesters and security forces.