Students at Egypt's Modern Science and Arts (MSA) University have now been on strike for one full week, boycotting lectures and classes to protest high tuition fees, a lack of administrative transparency and poor educational facilities. Students began their strike on 17 October and have since been staging an open-ended sit-in on campus.
Mahmoud, a student striker who preferred not to give his last name, says the current strike is the third of its kind at MSA University. The weeklong sit-in, he says, is a way of ratcheting up pressure on university administrators who have thus far ignored students’ longstanding grievances.
According to Mahmoud, a first successful sit-in was staged in March by dentistry and pharmacy students demanding better lab equipment. A second strike shortly afterward yielded a more comprehensive list of demands that ultimately went unfulfilled – and which are now being reiterated in the current strike.
"The university administration told us in March that they would look into our demands, so we suspended the strike to give them a chance to do so,” said Mahmoud. “This time around, students are determined that their grievances are addressed.”
"Now, the university has again asked us to suspend our strike, promising to study our demands within 15 days,” he added. “But we refused because we know they just want us to end the sit-in before graduation, since this is when British university representatives – who they don’t want to see the sit-in – will visit the campus.”
MSA University is accredited by two prominent British universities, Middlesex University and the University of Greenwich.
Student union member Mohamed (who also preferred not to give his last name) says that striking students have experienced harassment by campus security personnel, who have closed all university entrances to prevent anyone from entering or exiting. University administrators have also reportedly filed complaints against striking students with the police.
According to Mahmoud, police have visited the campus three times after complaints were filed by university officials. When two students posted details of the strike online, the university filed a police complaint against them, charging them with vandalising university property.
Mahmoud also claims that campus security personnel physically assaulted striking students on at least two separate occasions.
The current strike at MSA University is not the only recent student strike at a private Egyptian university. In September, students at the American University in Cairo (AUC) staged a similar action that eventually succeeded in pressuring university officials into meeting most of their stated demands.
Like their MSA counterparts, AUC students had complained of high fees and low-standard educational facilities.
Roughly 7,000 students are currently enrolled at MSA University, a private university that launched in 1996.
Students participating in the current strike belong mainly to the university’s mass communication and management faculties. Within recent days, however, striking students have staged demonstrations calling for participation by students in other faculties.