When the revolution began in 2011, IH Cairo saw its international student cohort drop from around 300 to just four overnight. Numbers began to recover after a couple of months but dropped again as political tensions worsened and the Muslim Brotherhood came into power in June 2012.
“A lot of European embassies and administrations decided to put Cairo in Amber or Red. We actually nearly went bankrupt”
“The moment that happened a lot of European embassies and administrations decided to put Cairo in Amber or Red,” centre manager, Aimen Hassanien, told The PIE News. “No students. We actually nearly went bankrupt.”
In the years since the revolution, the political situation has stabalised, and students have begun to return to Egypt.
After implementing a robust growth strategy including visits to universities in the UK and Scandinavia, IH Cairo has established a number of university partnerships and has returned to around half the number of students it had pre-Arab Spring.
And Hassanien is optimistic that numbers will continue to rise.
“People are seeing the Middle East as a strong, emerging market, and being there and being part of history is obviously a positive,” he said.
Meanwhile, overseas investment in Egypt has risen, presenting opportunities for schools to offer language training to professional groups.
One school that is now benefiting from the demand for corporate training is the Hedayet Institute for Arabic Studies in Cairo, which teaches professionals as well as overseas students and foreign expats.
Like IH Cairo, HIAS, which also has partnership agreements with several universities in the US and Europe, saw its numbers fall “drastically” during the political turmoil, director, Nagwa Hedayet, told The PIE News.
However, enrolments are now on the rise and Hedayet is confident that international students will be attracted to Egypt again.
“People are seeing the Middle East as a strong, emerging market, and being there and being part of history is obviously a positive”
“They will come back particularly to Egypt, the heart of the Middle East no doubt, unless miraculously it can live without a heart,” she said.
Another factor pushing international students to look to Egypt as an Arabic language destination is conflict in other parts of the region such as Syria, Wassim El Kadhi, head of regional business development for MENA & Eurasia at LAL Language Centres, told The PIE News.
“Market intelligence suggests that demand for Arabic courses is increasing around the world,” he said, adding that Egypt’s increasingly stable political situation, which has “drastically improved” over the last two years, makes it an increasingly attractive option for overseas students.
LAL Language Centres is capitalising on the renewed interest in studying in Egypt by establishing a new branch in El Gouna around 25km north of Hurghada on the Red Sea coast, set to open in July next year.
The school will teach both English and Arabic, making it the chain’s first location offering a second language in addition to English.
The school, which will be situated just opposite El Gouna’s university, will target holidaymakers in particular – tourists looking to combine a language course with a beach holiday and activities such as water sports.
“While demand in adult language travel stultifies in destinations struggling with adverse exchange rates, over-capacity, bureaucracy, restriction on work-study rights and tight immigration filters, LAL is looking to new horizons to deliver a first education in a fantastic environment at affordable prices,” Alex Perkins, LAL CEO, said.