The cabinet last week approved draft amendments to Law 49/1972 regulating universities, one of which imposes a fee on university students who fail and have to repeat a year. Should parliament approve the changes the new regulations will apply to the coming academic year.
The fees will be collected at the beginning of the repeated academic year and the extra money allocated to improving educational services at the university where the re-sit takes place.
The amendments set minimum and maximum sums for the amounts that can be charges, giving university boards leeway over determining the exact figure.
University boards will also be able to grant partial or full exemptions from the stipulated fee for students facing financial distress, and for those who can show a compelling reason in the event they were unable to sit their exams.
Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar said that increasing numbers of failing students retaking a year negatively affects the enrolment of freshmen students, and reduces education quality by causing overcrowding.
He underlined that the state remains committed to providing free education at universities and institutes as stipulated in the Egyptian constitution, but warned that the “right to free education cannot be allowed to harm the public interest.”
“For the state to continue to bear the costs of educating students who fail will limit the opportunities available to diligent students.”
The Egyptian constitution stipulates that public universities and institutions must provide free education, in accordance with international quality standards, with students paying only for books.
“If failing students want to pursue their studies, then they will have to offset at least some of the costs the state incurs,” said Abdel-Ghaffar.
The draft law sets minimum and maximum fees for different faculties. The changes propose that fees range from LE 6,000 to LE 12,000 for students at faculties of medicine and dentistry, LE 5,000 to LE 10,000 for students at faculties of engineering, information technology, pharmacy and physical therapy, LE 4,000 to LE 6,000 for students of veterinary medicine, agriculture, science and nursing, and LE 3,000 to LE 6,000 for students enrolled in other courses.
Higher Education Ministry Spokesperson Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar told Al-Ahram Weekly that universities and educational institutions in Egypt enroll 2.5 million students each year of which 10 to 15 per cent fail, many with little if any excuse.
“It is the right of both successful and first year students not to have a failing student benefit from the same subsidies they do,” said Abdel-Ghaffar.
Essam Al-Fiki, secretary of parliament’s Planning and Budget Committee, told Al-Ahram Arabic news website that the state’s allocations for higher education are huge, reaching over LE 82 billion in the current fiscal year.
According to Article 21 of the Egyptian constitution the state must earmark a minimum of two per cent of GDP for university education.
In the Times Higher Education World University 2020 Rankings, Aswan University and Mansoura University were ranked in the tranche between 401-500, Suez Canal University was ranked between 501-600, Beni-Sueif, Cairo and Kafr Al-Sheikh universities between 601-800, while Ain Shams, the American University in Cairo, Banha University and Tanta University came in between 801 and 1000.
Cabinet Spokesperson Nader Saad said that the fees were not inconsistent with free education, and the purpose of imposing them “is not to collect money but rather to achieve justice and equal opportunities”.
He stressed the fees range from between 10 and 15 per cent of the real cost of education borne by the state.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 September, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly