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Egypt to quadruple Arab and African HE students

The Egyptian government is aiming to quadruple the number of Arab and African students in its higher education institutions from 53,000 to 200,000 over the next three years, as part of a new international recruitment strategy.

Cairo, Egypt. Photo: Andrew A. Shenouda.

A coordinated marketing effort targeting prospective foreign students will run alongside these bold initiatives

Egypt’s Supreme Council is developing the strategy, which will begin by improving the research profiles of regional research centres and higher education institutions through increased collaboration and partnerships.

“The time finally seems to be now, with funding in place”

The focus will be “first and foremost [on] the improvement and competitiveness of Egyptian education locally, through assisted collaboration with outside expertise and donor funding”, Samer Mitwally, Senior Corporate & NGO Development Advisor at AGI-Advisory Group International, told The PIE News.

“Expanding and improving provisions on the ground is paramount: namely by enhancing the quality of teaching on campuses, infrastructure expansion of residential occupancy as well as teaching facilities, improvement of advanced research protocols (which is intertwined with cooperation with institutions abroad),” he explained.

The strategy will also entail the establishment of university international student offices that will support incoming students.

According to University World News, the strategy takes some lead from a European Commission report into higher education provision in Egypt.

A coordinated marketing effort targeting prospective foreign students will run alongside these bold initiatives, using social media and websites providing information about studying in Egypt.

There has been talk of restructuring the country’s education system since the 2011 revolution. However, reforms have been delayed due to political and bureaucratic hold-ups.

“The time finally seems to be now, with funding in place,” Mitwally remarked.

Funding will come both from the Egyptian government and EU and USAID grants.

“International and regional higher education agencies and scholarship donors will sit under one umbrella to effectively work together on many set initiatives”

There is currently a surplus in annual grants from EU and USAID as they were put on hold in early 2014, and different organisations are currently “scrambling” to obtain funding awards to fund local education reform and partnerships, Mitwally claimed.

The total funding figure has not been made public but there are multiple projects on the table, each worth an estimated US$2-3m, he said.

“Match that number as a minimum for infrastructure and you have a conservative figure of USD$50m guaranteed just for the 2015 aid year.”

“Under this plan, international and regional higher education agencies and scholarship donors will sit under one umbrella to effectively work together on many set initiatives,” he explained. “Egyptian cultural and education bureaus from around the globe will probably liaise with these entities, through the soon-to-be-awarded aid projects.”

The recent political unrest could deter some students from travelling to Egypt, but it remains attractive due to relatively low tuition fees and cultural familiarity for students from the MENA region, and remains one of the area’s most popular study destinations.

“The slight political unrest has not hindered the education sector at all as much as it has the tourism sector,” Mitwally commented.

“Educationally speaking, Egypt is still largely at the forefront with the largest student population in the Arab world, so it is a no brainer that Egypt will continue to lead the way as the regional education hub, no matter if they realise the quadrupling target or not, because simply: reforms are reforms.”

Mitwally said that meeting the target fourfold increase would be a “huge accomplishment” but added: “I am confident that indeed the number of students will grow immensely nonetheless.”

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