Egyptian joint venture falters

Loughborough University highlights difficulties with degree validation. Melanie Newman reports

April 24, 2008

A Loughborough University report criticising its Egyptian partner has highlighted the difficulties of validating degrees offered by institutions overseas.

Loughborough signed an agreement to validate undergraduate degrees at The British University in Egypt (BUE) last September as part of a wider partnership arrangement.

Just three months later, Loughborough's BUE validation subcommittee vowed not to validate any new BUE programmes after problems came to light. Minutes of a subcommittee meeting held in December 2007, which were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, outlined "a number of serious areas of concern", including BUE's failure to provide statistics on student progression. If student records were not put in order quickly, Loughborough might not be able to provide formal transcripts to graduates, the minutes noted.

"In addition ... there was evidence of an apparently lax attitude in some areas, towards the systematic central recording of critical information such as student transfers, reassessments ... ".

BUE had also failed to recruit sufficient numbers of full-time UK staff, and there were doubts over the capacity of existing staff to deliver the programmes, the minutes said. Part-time staff were insufficiently managed and supported, which was negatively affecting students' learning. Loughborough has said there would be no change in its policy of not expecting its own staff to travel to Egypt to fill the gaps in BUE's programmes.

The minutes also referred to "a number of serious problems" relating to library and IT provision. The subcommittee had reservations about whether BUE had the infrastructure to support research students. Loughborough had originally intended to provide joint supervision of PhD students with BUE.

Loughborough's institutional-level review of BUE, carried out last month, said a staff recruitment drive was under way and that BUE had committed to reduce its part-time contingent to 15 per cent. BUE was looking into replacing its student database system.

"LU would monitor developments closely, and would wish to see significant progress by summer 2008," the review said.

A spokeswoman for the university said the matters raised were being or had already been addressed. "The British University in Egypt is a new institution, and in the early stages of its development it has been building its infrastructure. We have been in regular communication with the BUE over the matters raised. As the paperwork demonstrates, we have adopted rigorous monitoring and evaluation procedures."

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