By Wagdy Sawahel
Egypt is planning a fourfold increase in the enrolment of Arab and African students in higher education institutions in the next three years – from 53,000 to 200,000 international students. This initiative was highlighted in a new international student recruitment strategy approved by the Supreme Council of Universities – the body responsible for the planning, coordination and supervision of universities in Egypt – on 25 January, according to the Ministry of Higher Education.
Egypt, together with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, hosts 4% of the global share of mobile students, as indicated by the Global Flow of Tertiary-level Students initiative of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
International students recruitment strategy
To grow Egypt's share of international students, the strategy will focus on developing plans and activities to improve the country’s international and regional higher education profile and on enhancing teaching, research and residence infrastructure on campuses.
The strategy will follow the recommendation of the European report, Review of Higher Education in Egypt, to “create higher education institutions and programmes in a way that they are attractive for expatriates from neighbouring countries to come to study in Egypt”. Universities will need to improve their research profiles by focusing on high-need research areas and expanding collaborations and partnerships with regional research centres and higher education institutions.
Under the plan, international and regional higher education agencies and scholarship donors will be contacted in efforts to secure agreements and student exchange initiatives with them, and Egyptian cultural representation bureaus around the world will help to activate academic cooperation.
Social media marketing for international student recruitment will be used along with other means, including preparing websites for universities as a source of information for international students. Also, international student offices will be set up in universities to provide services for incoming students and facilitate enrolment procedures, as well as market distinguished and diverse academic programmes offered by the university in Arabic and other languages.
Egypt as a study destination
“With one of the largest populations of students at universities in the Arab region – 23 public universities with about two million students and 19 private universities with about 60,000 students – Egypt is well placed to become a future regional education hub,” Magdi Tawfik Abdelhamid, a professor at Cairo's National Research Centre, told University World News.
Low travel costs and cultural familiarity are part of the Egyptian appeal to Arab and African students, Abdelhamid added.
According to 2014 Best Arab Region Universities Rankings, Egypt is the top-performing country, with 21 universities in the overall rankings, accounting for 23.1% of all the ranked institutions. Egypt has eight universities among the top 50 Arab universities, according to the 2014 QS Arab Region University Rankings. “However, the political instability that Egypt is experiencing now could be a barrier for foreign students to come to study,” said Abdelhamid. The country’s universities “are witnessing a remarkable upsurge in student protests, violence and security crackdowns, in response to educational issues and in support of the country’s first elected civilian president – former professor Mohamed Morsi – who was ousted by the military on 3 July 2013.”
As a result of this unstable political climate, the 2014 Fragile States Index ranked Egypt 31 out of 178 listed countries, placing it into the ‘alert’ category – the third worst of 11 possible tiers ranging from ‘very high alert’ to ‘very sustainable’. The top problem areas included “human rights, legitimacy of state, factionalised elites and group grievances”.