By Arabia Higher Ed Staff
Like almost everything else in Egypt these days, higher education and academic research appear to be the subject of continuous deterioration. After leading the Arab region at some point, Egyptian universities continue their nosedive in the regional and world rankings.
Historically, Arab students, especially those coming from the Gulf countries, flocked to study in Egyptian universities. However, the severe decline in academic standards has led many students from the Gulf to head towards countries such as Tunisia, Morroco, Jordan, Turkey, and Malaysia.
According to Saudi press reports, the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education has decided in August 2016 to stop sponsoring postgraduate education in Egypt due to the increased number of bogus postgraduate degrees. The bogus Egyptian degrees were apparently discovered by the Saudi Embassy in Cairo during routine approval processes.
The Saudi decision was followed by a Qatari announcement that excluded Egyptian Universities from a government approved list of 1811 universities and colleges. This included both undergraduate and postgraduate education.
According to various experts, nepotism, corruption and plagiarism are widespread in Egyptian universities. This includes the sale of exams and diplomas, the plagiarism of scientific articles, and the appointments of faculty and academic administrators based on connections and relationships.
Researchers Ahmed Belal and Irina Springuel attribute the decline in Egyptian higher education to the rise of a large number of new universities, the scarce number of qualified staff to teach students, the decline in qualified teaching staff, the lack of resources along with the abuse of those available, the lack of motivation for research, the lack of strategic planning for research, and inadequately paid university staff.
Plagiarism of scientific articles that have been published elsewhere is rampant in Egypt. The Egyptian Minister of Culture Helmi Nimnim recently admitted the severe deterioration of education in Egypt. He said that Egypt ranks first in the world in terms of plagiarized scientific articles. The minister stressed that the Egyptian government does not seriously deal with this phenomenon.
The sale of postgraduate diplomas has recently flourished in Egypt. One can buy a postgraduate degree for less than one thousand dollars. The sales are usually advertised on social media and in posters in the streets, in front of various universities.
One indication of the decline is that no university in Egypt was ranked in the top 500 universities in the world, with the exception of the American University in Cairo, which was ranked 365.
Egyptian universities have continued their decline in the various international rankings. Even the American University in Cairo fell 20 spots this year from the 245th position in 2015. Cairo University fell fifty spots, to the 551st position from the 501th position.
Commenting on the state of Egyptian universities in the rankings, Ben Sowter, the head of the QS Intelligence Unit, said that the presence of only the American University in Cairo in the best 500 universities in the world should make it clear that Egypt should increase the investment in scientific research and the cooperation with international institutions.