Egypt's highest court orders return of land to Nile University

Yasmine Wali , Wednesday 24 Apr 2013

Students are set to return to Nile University after court overturns decision allocating land to Zewail City for Science and Technology

Nile University
File photo: Central Security forces surrounds Zewail City in 6 of October, to disperse Nile University's sit in on Monday by force (Photo: Dr. Mahmoud Allam)

Land allocated to Cairo's Zewail City for Science and Technology (ZCST) should be returned to Nile University (NU), Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court ruled on Wednesday. It also ruled that NU should be registered as a 'civil' university.

The court further ruled that a 2011 decision giving ZCST land to NU had been legal and not the result of political pressure, as had been alleged.

The dispute began in 2011 when NU students were left without a campus after Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Nazif – who had originally granted the land to the university – was jailed for corruption.

Prominent Egyptian chemist and Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail, for whom the new university was named, had appealed the earlier decision ordering that the land be returned.

In its Wednesday decision, the court ruled that Nazif's allocation of 127 feddans of land to NU had been legal, since its aim was to enhance education in the field of technology.

The court went on to stress the importance of maintaining NU which enjoys the status of a legal state entity – and avoid changing students' legal situations.

The court also ruled that NU would be registered as a 'civil' university. Civil universities are neither private nor state-owned, but are rather 'owned by the people' via private donations.

NU was originally established as a private, non-profit university in 2006. In 2009, a law was passed allowing for the establishment of 'civil' universities.

In January 2011, the Civil Universities Law was approved by Egypt's Supreme Council of Civil and Private Universities. Before it was formally approved by then-president Hosni Mubarak, however, Egypt's 2011 revolution erupted, throwing the university's fate into doubt. 

Following the revolution, the government gave all of NU's land to the ZCST. As a result of the move, NU students were banned from the campus premises.

Until August, NU students attended classes in a makeshift campus in Egypt's Smart Village, an industrial park in 6 October City west of Cairo. Other less fortunate students, meanwhile, were forced to travel to universities farther afield to use their laboratory facilities.

In August, some exasperated NU students organised a sit-in outside the ZCST, where some resumed classes in tents.

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