First Arab-French University planned

A first joint university involving France and Arab states is to be established in the Egyptian capital Cairo, aimed at enhancing higher education and research collaboration.

The Arab-French University initiative was announced during a visit of the French Arab Universities Union to Benha in northeast Egypt on 16 April.

The visit was held to prepare for the First French Arab Conference on Higher Education and Scientific Research, which will be held in Luxor in Egypt at the end of 2014. The 22 Arab states include eight countries in Africa, six in the Arabian Gulf and eight in Asia.

The aims, objectives and proposed activities for the Arab-French University were outlined in a 17 April report published by Al-Ahram.

The institution will focus on producing research and a new generation of graduates, scientists and technologists, and on strengthening friendship and dialogue between the Arab and French cultures. It will teach a full range of educational disciplines through programmes that facilitate the mobility of researchers and professors as well as academic freedom.

Coordination of the Arab-French University will be shared between Egypt's Supreme Council of Universities and the French Arab Universities Union, and it will be managed by a council proposed by the union and an executive office, scientific and advisory boards and an elected general assembly.

The university will have two official branches - one in France and the other in Egypt - and membership of it will be open to all higher education institutions in France and the Arab world.

Expert view

Hassan Moawad Abdel Al, an Egyptian higher education, science and technology consultant, welcomed the announcement.

"The new university will enhance the mobility of the Arab and French academic communities to each other by acting as a bridge facilitating scientific research cooperation and higher education collaboration between the 500 Arab universities and the 85 French universities," Abdel Al told University World News.

According to the "Global Flow of Tertiary-level Students" interactive map published by the Canada-based UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the Arab states have seen a steady rise in outbound student numbers over the past 10 years, accounting for 7% of the global total.

France is the top destination for Arab students, receiving 29% of them - especially from North Africa and including Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

Abdel Al said: "Egypt is an ideal location to host the Arab-French University as there is a solid French base of higher education and scientific research projects already on Egyptian soil."

Besides already having the French University in Egypt, which was established in 2002, and the 2010 Franco-Egyptian Year of Science and Technology, on 8 April the French embassy and the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology in Egypt unveiled an Egyptian-French scientific partnership called "Amenhotep", which aims to encourage joint research programmes.

"The capability of France as the second largest innovation system in Europe after Germany will help in making the Arab-French University a model for academic-industry cooperation in order to produce industry-ready graduates for building a knowledge-based economy in the Arab world," Abdel Al concluded.