Egyptian students return from Ukraine: A double dilemma

Reem Leila , Monday 14 Mar 2022

What are the prospects for Egyptian university students forced to return from war-torn Ukraine in the middle of the academic year? Al-Ahram Weekly examines the options

Around 3,000 Egyptian students were enrolled in Ukranian universities
Around 3,000 Egyptian students were enrolled in Ukranian universities

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has formed a committee to review the situation of the 3,220 Egyptians who were enrolled at universities in Ukraine, and has requested affected students to fill in an online form detailing the courses they were studying, their specialisations, the name of their university, and previous examination results.

More than 1,900 Egyptian students have filled the form so far, with the remaining students expected to complete it within the next few days, reported Adel Abdel-Ghaffar, official spokesman at the Ministry of Higher Education.

Abdel-Ghaffar confirmed that all Egyptian students who were studying at Ukrainian universities will be able to resume their education at an Egyptian university providing they meet the conditions set for admission to specific faculties by the Coordination Office of Admission to Universities in the year in which they obtained their Thanaweya Amma.

Problems are likely to arise for students who failed to secure the grades necessary to join the faculties they wanted in Egypt where departments such as medicine and pharmacy demand extremely high grades in the Thanaweya Amma, and who subsequently took advantage of the more relaxed entrance requirements of many Ukrainian universities.

In addition to relaxed admission requirements, Ukraine is among the cheapest countries in Europe when it comes to tuition fees and cost of living, making it a favoured destination for students looking for foreign affordable university degrees. According to the BBC, Ukraine was hosting more than 76,000 foreign students this year, with a quarter of the total coming from Africa, including large numbers of students from Nigeria, Morocco, and Egypt.

Egypt’s Supreme Council of Universities automatically recognises the degrees awarded by just a handful of Ukrainian universities, pointed out Abdel-Ghaffar, and “students registered at these will not face any problem in resuming their studies at Egyptian universities, whether public or private.” He added that the ministry is in contact with these accredited institutions and is discussing the possibility of students studying online until the situation stabilises in Ukraine.

But for Egyptian students who entered Ukrainian universities to study medicine or pharmacy after getting low scores in the Thanaweya Amma exams, “it would be unfair to enrol them at Egyptian faculties that only accept students scoring more than 90 per cent in their grade 12 exams.” They will, however, be able to join local faculties that would have accepted the grades they achieved in the year they took the Thanaweya Amma.

While this may be acceptable to the 150 Egyptian students in their first year of study in Ukraine, it is likely to cause problems for those nearing graduation. Those who want to resume their studies in the same specialisation but who don’t meet the criteria set by Egyptian universities will be free to apply to other foreign universities recognized by the Egyptian educational system, according to Abdel Ghaffar.

While the ministry has not yet contacted any students who have returned to Egypt, it plans to announce the regulations under which they will be allowed to resume their studies very soon, said Abdel-Ghaffar.

When that happens, many students fear they will face difficulties securing the documents that will be necessary to prove their enrolment at Ukrainian universities.

“Currently we cannot obtain any documents. The universities have closed down and we do not know when they will reopen,” said Rania Sabri, the mother of an Egyptian student who is in Slovakia, waiting to return to Egypt.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 March, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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