The mid-term examinations that started on Monday have seen a spate of legal battles between university officials and niqab (full face veil) wearing students who were prevented from sitting their exams.
University officials demanded that students wearing the niqab reveal their faces during exams so that supervisors could confirm their identity. Those students who refused to do so were subsequently not permitted to take the exams.
Students who were not allowed, filed cases against the decision with the Supreme Administrative Court. University officials say that some students don the niqab to facilitate cheating or have someone else take their exam for them.
Since 2009, students have been contesting the ban on the niqab with the Supreme Administrative Court. Some students won their case while others didn’t.
Minister of Higher Education Hani Hilal said that he respects all court decisions as universities will allow the students who obtain a ruling in their favour to wear the niqab during exams. Similarly, students who are ruled against will be obliged to submit to the university's examinations procedures.
Earlier this month, a niqab-wearing professor had over turned a ban against faculty staff wearing the niqab in the classroom. Officials had said that professors with the niqab are unable to relate with their students and that it was dangerous for them to be in labs.
Hilal said that "preventing students and professors from entering examinations is a decision taken by the higher council for universities and all should abide by it."
The furore over the niqab started in October 2009 when Hilal declared the niqab would no longer be permitted inside women's hostels at public universities for security reasons.
That decision, he said, followed a number of incidents in which men had been caught entering hostel premises dressed as females.