Universities on alert after blasts, students expelled

Egypt's universities, rocked by months of anti-government protests, have toughened up on security following deadly explosions near the country's largest academic institution. Dozens of students involved in protests have been expelled in recent weeks.

Cairo University, where the bombings occurred on 2 April, said it would reinstate police guards on the campus for the first time since 2010 - a move that has generated controversy.

The decision was taken by heads of the university's faculties at a crisis meeting prompted by the blasts, which killed a police general and wounded five policemen.

"The decision is due to the terrorist incident, which promises further threats to Cairo University's teaching staff, students and buildings," the university board said in a statement. "The measure is part of an integrated security network to protect the university."

The institution has not yet set a date for the decision to take effect.

The Higher Council of Universities, a state-run body in charge of academic policy in Egypt, this week called on the government to deploy security forces at the gates of universities, to be summoned by university leaders to quell violence on campuses.

As the council held an emergency meeting last Tuesday to review the security situation, police reported defusing a dozen crude bombs inside Cairo-based Ain Shams University, raising further concerns about safety at academic centres.

The police question

Cairo University has been one of several academic institutions hit by violent protests since the army deposed former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July.

In 2010, an Egyptian court ordered police guards to be removed from universities and to be replaced by civilian security guards.

But university presidents say civilian guards have been unable to maintain order on campuses due to frequent and violent protests, which they blame on pro-Morsi students.

Cairo University authorities have said the police reinstatement will be temporary. "We appeal to all members of the teaching staff, students and employees to understand the current exceptional circumstances," said the university board.

Administrators of several other universities have said they are also considering the possibility of asking police to resume charge of security.

Metal detectors and surveillance cameras have been installed at various institutions in the wake of the Cairo University bombings.


For decades, Egyptian security agencies have been accused of interfering in academic affairs and harassing political opponents at universities.

So the move to re-position police on campuses drew prompt condemnation.

"This decision is a crime by all standards," said Hani el-Husseini, a Cairo University lecturer.

"The university was not involved in the explosions, which were carried out so professionally that students could not be accused of standing behind them," el-Husseini, an advocate of university independence, added.

"Allowing police into the campus will provoke students and increase violence."

Students expelled

Students have accused the police of random arrests, allegedly to crush political dissent. But the military-backed government said the detained students were involved in rioting and sabotage inside and outside universities.

The country's Interim President Adly Mansour recently issued a decree, giving university heads greater powers to expel students found guilty of "committing subversive acts and disruption of the educational process".

Cairo and Al Azhar universities, where the most violent protests have taken place, have expelled dozens of students in recent weeks.

Following the Cairo University bombings, the government ordered around-the-clock security patrols in the vicinity of universities and vowed to deal firmly with "instigators of rioting" among students.