UK flag waves in a growing global village on the Nile

BUE seeks extra British backing in competitive environment. David Matthews reports from Cairo

March 29, 2012

Credit: BUE
Aiming high: BUE has long-established American University in Cairo in its sights

Six years after starting up with just 200 students, the British University in Egypt (BUE) is looking for new UK partners to help it to rival longer-established private institutions in Cairo.

Loughborough University validates 16 BUE programmes in engineering, computer science, economics and business administration, while Queen Margaret University began validating its nursing courses in 2008.

The BUE's grand colonnaded campus, complete with a vast domed auditorium, is located about one hour's drive east of central Cairo and now hosts around 3,000 students. Ahmed Amin Hamza, the institution's president, wants to double this number in the next three years and add faculties in pharmacy, communication and new media, dentistry, arts and humanities, and education.

"If we establish the five [faculties]...we will find another partner [in the UK]...and we would like to deal with other universities," he said, although he stressed that the institution's relationships with its existing partners were important.

The BUE is just one of several private, foreign-linked universities established in Egypt over the past 10 years that trade on national reputations in higher education.

The German University in Cairo was opened in 2003 with the help of the universities of Ulm and Stuttgart, which are tasked with ensuring the quality of its degrees.

In 2006, the French University in Egypt opened on the outskirts of Cairo in collaboration with four French institutions.

In February 2010, the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology received its first students on a campus just outside Alexandria. It is supported by a consortium of 12 Japanese institutions.

But the oldest and most prestigious is the American University in Cairo (AUC). Established in 1919, it has around 6,500 students.

Unlike the new upstarts, the AUC is not overseen by foreign universities but is accredited in its own right by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in the US.

Professor Hamza said the BUE is a competitor of the AUC in "specific subjects...especially business administration, economics and some branches of engineering". It is also becoming a research university, he added, but has only just begun its endeavours in this area.

Tuition fees for undergraduate engineering at the not-for-profit BUE are about £5,000 a year for 2012-13 - around a fifth more than Egypt's average per capita income, according to the CIA's World Factbook. At the AUC, undergraduate rates for 2011-12 are more than double that (£11,000 a year).

The BUE was founded with funding from Mohamed Farid Khamis, an Egyptian rug and carpet tycoon who now chairs its board of trustees. It stresses that these business origins mean that BUE students are confronted with real workplace problems and are prepared to start their own businesses (although Professor Hamza would not be drawn on its graduate employment rate).

David Kirby, dean of the BUE's Faculty of Business Administration, Economics and Political Science, argued that its students "are far more entrepreneurial" than their UK peers.

However, Egyptian universities had sometimes failed to develop their students' working skills and the BUE was striving to turn this around, he added.

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