Egypt seeks to attract international branch campuses

Minister for higher education says proposed new law will help foreign universities set up outposts in the country

November 3, 2017
Motorbike jumping the pyramids
Source: Reuters
Aiming high: a new law will ‘support attracting investments in higher education’ and facilitate the mobility of staff

The Egyptian government has proposed a new law that would make it easier for foreign universities to establish international branch campuses in the country.

Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Egypt’s minister of higher education and scientific research, said that the government was looking to introduce a “new law for international branch campuses intending to operate in the education destination” and called for UK universities to “invest in the Egyptian market of education”.

During a keynote address at a Universities UK event on transnational education (TNE) on 1 November, Dr Abdel Ghaffar said that the law would “facilitate and fast-track the licensing process” for overseas outposts in the country, “support attracting investments in higher education” and facilitate the mobility of staff.

He added that the law would be “aligned” with the Magna Charta Universitatum, a document containing principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy that has been signed by hundreds of university leaders from across the world.

“We respect academic freedom and university autonomy,” he said.

Dr Abdel Ghaffar said that the new administrative capital of Egypt, 28 miles east of Cairo, which is set to be completed within three years, would be an ideal location for international branch campuses.

Egypt currently has one international branch campus, an outpost of the Technical University of Berlin, in El Gouna, opened in 2012.

The minister also highlighted the strength of existing UK-Egypt higher education partnerships.

He said that Egypt is currently the “fifth largest host country for UK TNE students” and the “number of students choosing to study for UK degrees in Egypt increased by 35 per cent in three years”.

In 2015-16, about 17,000 students were studying for UK degrees in Egypt, he added.

Dr Abdel Ghaffar also cited figures showing the growth in domestic and international students in the region.

There are now 70,525 international students in the country, more than three times the number in 2013 (22,245), while the number of 18- to 22-year-olds in the country is projected to increase from 7.9 million to 9 million by 2030, he said.

However, some international universities may retain doubts about the political stability of Egypt, with the violence that followed the 2011 revolution still fresh in many people’s minds.

Jason Lane, chair of the department of educational policy and leadership and director of the Cross-Border Education Research Team at the State University of New York Albany, was sceptical over whether the new law would result in a big growth in international branch campuses in the country, despite noting that there has long been “interest by foreign universities to be part of the Egypt education system”.

“We will definitely see institutions look at [Egypt] as a possible location for international branch campuses, although I don’t think that we will see a mad rush to set up,” he said.  

“Getting the regulations right is just the tip of the iceberg. Institutions are likely to proceed carefully to make sure the environment is stable, they have the right resource strategy to make the initiative sustainable, they are able to navigate the local politics, and [are] able to attract a quality academic workforce and college-ready students.”

He added that any new overseas outposts in the country would likely attract students from the Middle East and North Africa region and from the rest of Africa.   

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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