With the purpose of stimulating the economy and solving the chronic congestion in the capital, Egypt announced the establishment of the New Administrative City (NAC) in East Cairo.
In an exclusive interview, Ahram Online discussed with the President of the University of Hertfordshire (UH) — hosted by the Global Academic Foundation in Egypt — Vincent Emery, the role the private sector plays in Egypt’s development and why the university opted for the NAC to be the location of its Egyptian headquarters.
Emery also revealed that the Global Academic Foundation’s investments in Egypt have amounted to EGP 1.6 billion, with an expectation that they will reach around EGP 6 or 7 billion to expand its building footprint and facilities in the future.
Ahram Online: How do you assess the investment climate in Egypt, particularly pertaining to higher education?
Vincent Emery: Currently, Egypt is embracing remarkable development in the education sector, which has prompted many large institutions to invest in all aspects of education — technological, technical, professional, and others. Also, Egypt has recently witnessed a surge in the number of private and international universities, driven by investment in the Egyptian education sector, especially in the NAC, which has greatly contributed to the development of the university and pre-university sectors in an unprecedented way.
The foundation’s investments in the NAC, which were implemented in cooperation with the UH in the United Kingdom, were consistent with Egypt's strategy and vision for 2030 and pertinent to developing education. The new law that the Egyptian Parliament passed stipulates and stresses on the importance of establishing new foreign universities’ branches in Egypt to improve the education quality; therefore, the UH saw the law as an ideal opportunity to introduce its foreign education experience to Egypt’s students.
Furthermore, endeavours are being made by Egypt to become a destination for investments in the field of higher education in the region, which will, in turn, contribute to making the NAC a centre for education and a hub for scientific research in the Middle East.
For instance, new laws were issued recently to reform undergraduate and post-graduate studies at local universities. The government also signed numerous educational protocols that led to a breakthrough in higher education investments, which is manifested through the number of international branches that have already opened in the NAC.
AO: What are the motives that encouraged you to establish a branch of the UH in Egypt? And why did you select the NAC in particular?
VE: Undoubtedly, Egypt has recently made exceptional strides in the educational sector, and this is an important factor that paved the way for foreign universities to consider inaugurating their new branches in Egypt, especially in the NAC.
The recent laws have, in fact, created a positive atmosphere that spurred us to take part in improving the Egyptian higher education sector. Also, our participation comes in line with Egypt’s initiative to transform the NAC into an educational hub, as well as elevating higher education in Egypt to be on a par with other top universities globally.
Egypt has also recently disclosed its intention to revolutionise its educational system by bringing international experiences home. Therefore, the country has been building new public, private, non-profit, and foreign universities.
As a result, the UH decided to invest actively in Egypt, as it believes that the ranking and reputation of Egypt’s higher education sector will increase steadily in the coming years. The UH is also convinced that the Egyptian labour market will benefit immensely from the new disciplines that the university will introduce and the new fully equipped generation that it will graduate.
The NAC was chosen for many reasons, it is a city that was built with state-of-the-art infrastructure and conforms to the ideal of a smart city. This will have a major impact on our success in providing a distinguished educational experience.
All of these factors contribute to the UH philosophy in providing both traditional and unique specialisations such that we can keep pace with the demands of the Egyptian labour market and create cadres of graduates that suit the requirements of the regional and local markets.
We certainly take pride in being part of Egypt’s Vision 2030, with the ambitious development plan set to herald a new educational era in Egypt. Inaugurating branches of international universities in Egypt meets the Egyptian government’s aspiration to transform the NAC into a global educational hub that attracts students locally, regionally, and internationally.
It is noteworthy that the NAC is set to be the regional educational hub, rolling out some dynamic and prestigious schools and universities, which will help deliver the country's ambitious vision of establishing and developing an integrated educational system.
AO: How do you see the efforts exerted by Egypt regarding the expansion of investments in human capital, including the education and health sectors?
VE: Egypt has embarked on a development journey across all levels, including its health sector reform. Different measures were adopted in addressing the pandemic. In addition to its ongoing Economic Transformation Program, which has been credited with accelerating government spending on the health sector.
In accordance with the Egyptian initiative to improve human capital, UH-GAF’s strategy aims at providing an education that marries the theoretical and academic with the practical in order to keep abreast with the needs and developments in industry, as well as proffer opportunities that cater to its needs.
Moreover, the university enables its students to strike an impressive balance between skills and academic knowledge tailored to the needs of the job market’s needs. This balance is attained through some unique educational models and distinguished programs.
In fact, the UH’s investments are primarily directed to contribute to reshaping the higher education system in accordance with the Egyptian government ‘s vision to enhance education norms. The UH’s strategy aims to graduate a competent, innovative, and entrepreneurial generation that can fill the gaps in the labour market, as well as satisfy the needs of the new industrial and technological sectors in the Egyptian and global markets.
AO: What is the total investment that you intend to pump into Egypt through establishing the UH branch?
VE: The Global Academic Foundation has a clear vision to be one of the largest entities in the Middle East, which hosts several specialised foreign branches in different advanced disciplines that suit the labour market. Therefore, the Foundation is hosting the UH on a 50-acre site in the NAC and has launched multiple faculties to add genuine value to the educational system and entrepreneurship in Egypt. To date, our Investment has amounted EGP 1.6 billion, with an expectation that it will reach around EGP 6 or 7 billion, as we are looking forward to expanding our building footprint and facilities in the future.
AO: From your perspective, how can Egypt improve the education sector, especially since this is a key objective of the UN Sustainable Development Goals’ agenda?
VE: Unquestionably, Egypt is on the right track when it comes to educational sustainability. Allocating significant amounts of land dedicated to the establishment of higher education institutions in the NAC in general will eventually alter the dominant educational concepts, as Egypt is taking steadfast steps towards establishing smart infrastructure that will uphold future educational mega projects.
Additionally, signing mutual agreements between universities and other educational entities in Egypt and beyond will create cooperative bonds and expand the horizons of students as they pursue their studies. Needless to say, increasing the number of foreign branches will catalyse the competitiveness of the higher education sector in Egypt and ultimately contribute to increasing the international ranking of Egyptian higher education.