Students at an Egyptian university have branded the new head of the institution a “thief” after he told them tuition fees would need to rise.
Francis Ricciardone, president of the American-University in Cairo (AUC), had arranged a meeting to discuss the potential impact on the institution from the Egyptian government’s decision to float the country’s currency freely, leading it to devalue against other currencies.
However, it quickly descended into shouting between the students and the president and other AUC staff, after Mr Ricciardone said that fee rises would be inevitable.
The students then stormed out of the meeting room and congregated outside the administration building, chanting “we won’t pay” and “you are a thief”, online news site Mada Masr reported on 7 November.
During the meeting, Mr Ricciardone had told the audience that “we are all now vulnerable to market forces like never before” and that AUC’s costs will now have to “reflect the real costs”.
Together with Brian MacDougall, AUC’s chief financial officer, Mr Ricciardone presented the university’s budget and the losses they expected to occur after the flotation.
“In the long run it is good for us, but in the short run there is going to be pain,” he said.
In response, students interrupted the representatives, saying they were already aware of the economic crisis in Egypt, and were seeking assurances on their tuition fees and academic futures. Their most pressing concern appeared to be an instalment of their deferred tuition payments, which is due in the next few weeks. They demanded that this should be accepted at the old exchange rate, but Mr Ricciardone said this was not realistic.
Amr al-Alfy, president of the student union, rejected this, saying students would consider leaving university and would advise their younger siblings not to enrol if they were charged fees at this rate.