Higher education in Egypt: Major changes

Reem Leila , Friday 1 Sep 2023

Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Ayman Ashour recently issued a ministerial decree stating the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University will change to the credit hours system, positioning the faculty as the first government university to allow students to graduate in four years.

Educational changes
There were 3.3 million university students in 2022


President of Cairo University Mohamed Othman Al-Khosht stated the new system will begin in the 2023-24 academic year. It would include various features, among them the ability to graduate without being constrained by a specific number of study years.

It also permits students to study abroad for either a full academic year or longer, according to specified conditions.

The decree is a continuation of the educational changes taking place throughout most of the past decade. The number of universities in Egypt has doubled since 2014 to accommodate the annual increase in student enrollment. During those years, student enrollment in higher education increased by approximately one million.

The government’s efforts have led to the establishment of a public university in every governorate, alongside private and specialised universities. In 2014, there were 2.3 million students enrolled in 50 universities across the country.

The number increased to 3.3 million students in 92 universities by the end of 2022 in 28 government universities, 27 private universities and 20 non-profit universities.

“This expansion reflects the nation’s commitment to meet the annual surge in student numbers,” stated Al-Khosht.

One outcome of the efforts is the improved global ranking of Egyptian universities. The number of Egyptian universities listed in the QS World University Rankings increased from five in 2017 to 14 in 2023.

Similarly, the number of Egyptian universities listed in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings rose from three in 2016 to 36 in 2023. Egypt is currently ranked 24 in scientific research, up 13 places, owing to a substantial increase in international research publications from Egyptian universities.

Ashour highlighted the role of private universities in Egypt’s educational landscape, saying the institutions are non-profit oriented but aim to provide affordable educational opportunities by promoting inclusivity among various segments of society.

The focus on interdisciplinary studies aligned with future job requirements has enabled private universities to offer innovative programmes, he said. Many universities have also established partnerships with foreign institutions, offering dual degrees.

Egypt’s collaboration with foreign universities has extended to the establishment of branch campuses within its borders. Notably, there are seven branches of prominent foreign universities in the New Administrative Capital, including Prince Edward Island University, Ryerson University (both Canadian), Coventry University, Hertfordshire University, University of London, and University of Central Lancashire (all British), as well as Nova University (Portuguese). They provide distinctive educational programmes catering to local, regional, and international markets.

According to Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research spokesman Adel Abdel-Ghaffar, Egypt is aiming to pioneer the fourth generation of universities as part of its national 2030 strategy for higher education and scientific research. The plan aims to graduate a workforce capable of meeting the demands of an innovative and creative job market.

The establishment of technological universities, with 10 launched thus far, covers a range of future-oriented disciplines. Additionally, an academic-industrial alliance has been formed between several universities and the Suez Canal Economic Zone, prioritising research agendas for key projects, Abdel-Ghaffar said.

Abdel-Ghaffar said new majors have been introduced to the country’s universities such as artificial intelligence, mechatronics and cyber security in accordance with the current job market demands.

“By the end of the last academic year, 11,000 students were studying these new majors. The number is expected to increase this year to at least 15,000.”

* A version of this article appears in print in the 31 August, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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