Students at Cairo University in Egypt (Archive photo: Al-Ahram)
The upcoming academic year, set to officially start 22 September, saw 400,000 students applying to universities, including the admission of 15,000 extra students. The marked increase has been attributed to an unprecedented rise in the number of high scorers in 12th grade high school, or Thanaweya Amma, this year.
Thanaweya Amma results were higher three per cent than the average this year. Students whose score ranged from 90-95 per cent increased by three per cent. There was also a four per cent increase in those who scored 98 per cent or more.
In an urgent meeting of the Supreme Council of Universities (SCU) headed by Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar, it was agreed that new top faculties will be created to absorb the large number of students. According to a ministerial decree, students can this year join the newly created faculties of medicine, dentistry and engineering at Arish University.
Another ministerial decree allows for the faculties of physiotherapy and agriculture at the newly inaugurated Heliopolis University to accept students.
During the meeting, Abdel-Ghaffar agreed to increase the number of students enrolled in the faculties of nursing, medicine, physiotherapy and information technology so as to meet job market requirements.
There is equal pressure on private universities. “We are studying ways to increase the number of students who will join the faculties of medicine and dentistry at private universities,” Seddik Abdel-Salam, secretary-general of the Private Universities Council, said.
Mayar Abdel-Azim, mother of a Thanaweya Amma student, said that her son scored 90.6 in his exams “yet there was no place for him in the top engineering or medical faculties”. Abdel-Azim said she had to apply to a private university which she considers of lesser quality. “How come my son can’t find a vacancy at a decent university with this good score,” she asked.
There are 24 universities in Egypt, seven per cent of which are private. Sayed Atta, head of the education and coordination sector at the Ministry of Higher Education which sends students to universities based on their grades, noted that private universities can help in realising the dream of students joining one of the top faculties as the scores required in private universities are less than their public counterparts.
“This year, despite the increase in the number of enrolled students, the universities are still unable to absorb everyone,” Atta said.
Mona Atef, a Thanaweya Amma student with a general score of 84.7 per cent, resorted to one of the newly inaugurated private universities because they accept students with lower scores.
However, access to private universities is not guaranteed. Mohamed Roshdi, father of twin Thanaweya Amma students whose score was in the 90s, said his children are on the waiting list of one of the top private universities.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 September, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the title: Crowded universities