Twelve newly established non-profit national universities are scheduled to open at the start of the 2022-23 academic year in October for the first batches of students who have obtained the Egyptian General Secondary Certificate, known as Thanaweya Amma, or its equivalent Egyptian, Arab, or foreign certificates.
The new universities have been established as part of a plan set in motion in recent years to set up a new generation of universities to upgrade Egypt’s higher-education system and open new educational venues focusing on scientific fields that can keep up with the rapidly changing marketplace.
The non-profit universities are not free of charge as is the case at the country’s public universities where education is offered for free for all students under the constitution. However, they are inexpensive, something which is not necessarily the case at the private universities.
Tuition fees at the new universities are intended to cover the costs of providing the educational services and operation of the facilities. These include staff salaries, premises, and lab expenses, as well as the expenses of introducing new majors and partnerships with international universities, according to Adel Abdel-Ghaffar, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
The state will cover 40 to 60 per cent of the educational costs of students at the new universities, he added.
Over the past two years, non-profit universities have been established to provide education in majors in science and technology. They have included the King Salman International University in Sinai, the Alamein International University in New Alamein, the Galala University in Galala, and the New Mansoura University in New Mansoura.
While the new facilities are branched off from the public universities, they have separate administrations. They are meant to prepare graduates for the local, regional, and international labour markets, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research said.
One of the goals of the new universities is to reduce the demand for traditional majors by introducing non-traditional ones more associated with the needs of labour market, particularly those of digital transformation and artificial intelligence, Abdel-Ghaffar told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The new universities offer specialities including traditional majors such as medicine, dentistry, clinical pharmacy, and engineering, in addition to more modern ones such as information technology.
Ten faculties in the new universities focus on technological and science-related majors, including six faculties of computing and artificial intelligence, two of computer science, one of health sciences technology, and one of navigation sciences and space technology.
Earlier this month, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi ordered a percentage of the application fees for new students joining the non-profit national universities to be covered and issued directives to provide scholarships for outstanding students.
Enrolment at the new universities is done through a system separate from that used by the public and private universities known as the tansik. The Higher Education Ministry has allocated eight days from 23 to 30 August for students to submit their applications via an online platform.
Minimum grades required for admission to the 12 new universities for the upcoming academic year, including to the most prestigious majors like medicine and engineering, are lower than those of the public universities but not lower than at the private universities.
The new universities offer a second chance for students who did not obtain the minimum grades needed for their desired faculties at the public universities or who cannot afford the tuition fees at the private universities.
The overall pass rate in the Thanaweya Amma exams over the past two years has dramatically declined, with the Ministry of Education replacing the decades-long system of memorising for tests with a system based on the comprehension of material to gauge students’ critical thinking skills.
The new approach has ended the phenomenon of students obtaining full marks in their senior year at high school, with the pass rate hitting 75 per cent in the recently concluded academic year 2021-22 and 74 per cent in 2020-21, down from 81.5 per cent prior to the introduction of the new examination system in the 2019-20 academic year.
“These [national] universities provide several opportunities [for students], as they include nine new faculties of medicine, five new faculties of dentistry, and three new faculties of physiotherapy… with tuition that is 20 to 30 per cent less than the cheapest private universities,” Mohamed Helmi Al-Ghor, secretary of the Council of National and Private Universities at the Higher Education Ministry, said.
The lowest tuition fees for studying medicine at the non-profit national universities range between LE80,000 and LE90,000, while the lowest at the private universities hovers between LE125,000 and LE130,000, Al-Ghor said in a phone-in with local satellite TV channel CBC on Friday.
The minimum grades required for the medicine faculties at the national universities are set at 82 per cent, the Higher Education Ministry said in a statement on Friday. The faculties of dentistry, physiotherapy, pharmacy, and veterinary medicine at the 12 national universities require 80 per cent, 78 per cent, 74 per cent and 70 per cent grades, respectively, the statement added.
However, the minimum scores for admission to top-ranking faculties at the public universities, such as medicine, dentistry, physiotherapy, and pharmacy, are 91.6 per cent, 91.3 per cent, 90 per cent, and 90.7, respectively, Minister of Higher Education Mohamed Ayman Ashour said in a press conference on Wednesday, where he announced the results of the tansik admission for the public universities.
At the national universities, the minimum requirements for sciences and computer majors hover between 62 per cent and 55 per cent.
Some 650,000 high-school students took the Thanaweya Amma exams this year, nearly the same as last year. The Ministry of Higher Education looks forward to accepting around 65,000 students in both the national and private universities in the current academic year, Al-Ghor added.
Last year, 45,000 students studied outside the public universities; 42,000 of them at the private universities and 3,000 at the national ones, he added, noting that the available places at the national and private universities already exceed 90,000.
The new campuses
The new universities serve students in 12 governorates, with four located in Upper Egypt (Assiut, Minya, Qena, and Beni Sweif), five in the Nile Delta (Alexandria, Mansoura, Menoufiya, Sharqiya, and Qalioubiya), two in the Canal Zone (Ismailia and Port Said), and one in Cairo.
The Upper Egyptian universities are the Assiut National University, the Beni Sweif National University, the Minya National University, and the South Valley National University. The Nile Delta universities are the Alexandria National University, the Mansoura National University, the Menoufiya National University, the Zagazig National University, and the Benha National University.
In the Canal Zone, there are the New Ismailia National University and the East Port Said National University, while the Helwan National University is located in Cairo.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 25 August, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.