Master, PhD thesis proposals in the service of the state

Ahmed Morsy , Saturday 1 Dec 2018

Should academic research be constrained by development plans? Alexandria University appears to think so

Alexandria University
Alexandria University Main Building (Photo: courtesy of Alexandria University Official Website)

Mokhtar Youssef, the head of Alexandria University’s Council for Postgraduate Studies and Research, announced last week that all master and PhD thesis proposals must conform to Egypt’s Vision 2030.

Established in 1938, Alexandria University is the second oldest in Egypt after Cairo University. It has 23 affiliated faculties and institutions offering graduate degrees in a wide array of subjects, from medicine to fine arts and tourism.

Aliaa Al-Mahdi, professor of economics and political science at Cairo University, opposes the decision on the grounds that it places unacceptable restrictions on research.

Educational expert Medhat Mosaad agrees. “The freedom of thought of researchers cannot be constrained by the state’s future plans,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi launched the long-term Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS): Egypt Vision 2030 in April 2016.

The 2030 Vision, says the government, is tailored to foster inclusive development, economic and social justice and revive Egypt’s role as a regional leader.

The strategy seeks to increase Egypt’s contribution to global GDP to one per cent, up from 0.21 per cent in 2015, and increase the country’s rankings in competitiveness, transparency and ease of doing in international indices.

It targets a reduction in unemployment from 12 to five per cent and in poverty rates from 26.3 per cent to 15 per cent by supporting small and medium enterprises, and seeks to upgrade the performance of the public sector.

“It is impractical to link scientific research to Egypt Vision 2030. The SDS is still being developed. It is not cast in stone. The state’s strategic vision is not sacred and can be changed,” says Al-Mahdi. Alexandria University’s announcement, she argues, puts the cart before the horse since government plans should be the result of scientific research and not the opposite.

“When researchers enjoy freedom of thought and expression they can innovate and explore out-of-the-box ideas that the people responsible for Egypt Vision 2030 might have overlooked,” says Mosaad. “Diversity and difference are useful and constructive.”

“The decision needs to be cancelled. The basis of research has always been openness and diversity. It is the only way to generate new ideas,” insists Al-Mahdi.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 29 November, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: In the service of the state

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