National Dialogue calls for ensuring universities’ independence, academic freedoms

Ahram Online , Sunday 18 Jun 2023

Political forces, experts and professors gathered on Sunday under the National Dialogue’s umbrella to call for activating constitutional provisions that maintain universities’ independence and academic freedoms.

National Dialogue
The National Dialogue holds a session for the Human Rights and Public Freedoms Committee of the National Dialogue s political axis to discuss the academic freedom requirements. National Dialogue


Their remarks came during a session for the Human Rights and Public Freedoms Committee, which was part of the National Dialogue’s political axis to discuss the requirements for academic freedom and encourage interaction between Egyptian and foreign academic communities.

The demands to ensure academic freedom and empower academics are in line with the constitution, Mostafa Kamel, assistant rapporteur of the dialogue’s political axis, said during the session.

Kamel, a political science professor, called for approving a constitutional text on the independence of universities.

He also stressed the importance of ensuring the independence of research and scientific activities to improve communication with research communities abroad.

The independence of universities will raise their efficiency and reduce the burden on the government in this regard, Kamel added.

Article 21 of the Constitution stipulates that the state guarantees the independence of universities and scientific and linguistic academies.

“Despite these rights and the clear constitutional provisions, they are not activated, and there is an explicit violation of the constitutional text,” he stressed.

University elections, national security

The independence of universities should entail the government's return to free elections of faculty deans and university presidents instead of appointing them, Kamel said.

For his part, National Dialogue Secretary-General, Mahmoud Fawzi, said that appointing university presidents and faculty deans does not infringe on the independence of educational entities and that elections do not guarantee it.

The independence of universities has been stipulated in the Egyptian constitution for decades, Fawzy noted.

He noted, however, that the 1923 constitution ensured free education unless it disturbed public order or contradicted public morals.

Fawzy noted that certain academic activities, including field research and opinion polls, have been conducted for political reasons, forcing the state to take the necessary measures to counter them to maintain the established pillars and institutions.

Supporting innovation

Moataz Khorshid, a former minister of higher education and scientific research, stressed the need to support intellectual creativity, innovation and university independence.

He affirmed that the right to education cannot be enjoyed except under academic freedom.

Khorshid called for reviewing the current centralization of academic decisions, stressing that the international conventions state the need to ensure the freedom of academics in developing their educational capacities.

Walid Nasr, a representative of the Civilian Movement — an alliance between 12 leftist and liberal political parties — said the freedom of scientific research and information exchange is inseparable from freedom of thought, opinion and expression.

The freedom of scientific research requires a political will and a democratic system of government, Nasr stressed.


He stressed the need to prevent security interference in the academic affairs of universities.

The administrations of different universities should stop infringing the right of university professors to select the issues discussed in their lectures and set exam questions, Nasr said.

He also called for a law that grants researchers the right to access documents and affirms the need to supply research centres and institutes with all the necessary devices and equipment.

Nasr further called for increasing spending on scientific research, in line with the constitution, and encouraging the private sector to increase its contribution to financing scientific research.

Eradicating bureaucracy

Goda Abdel-Khalek, a former social solidarity minister and a member of the dialogue’s board of trustees, said that academic freedom in Egypt is currently at its minimum.

He noted that universities and faculties, including the Faculty of Economics and Political Science, cannot hold scientific events except by obtaining approvals from several bodies.

This obstructs the scientific activities inside the faculties, Abdel-Khalek stressed.

Many obstacles face the Egyptian academic community, and some research centres cannot publish any research studies, Abdel-Khalek said.

He affirmed the need to discuss a mechanism for ensuring universities’ freedom.

Nevine Mossaad, the dialogue's rapporteur of the Human Rights and Public Freedoms Committee, shed light on the bureaucratic procedures researchers face, including the approvals required to travel abroad or receive foreign researchers.

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