Eight-year Egyptian plan for higher education

Egypt has announced a US$5.87 billion higher education plan – to run in two phases from 2014 to 2022 and including 61 initiatives – aimed at producing more market-ready graduates and promoting a knowledge-based economy.

The Plan for Higher Education, which includes creating five new universities a year, was unveiled by Minister of Higher Education Al-Sayyed Abdel-Khaleq on 6 August.

The budget to implement it will be obtained by constitutional entitlement, as articles 19 and 21 of the 2014 national charter require the state to allocate at least 4% of the budget to education, 2% to higher education and 1% to scientific research.

The charter also states that the allocated percentages will be gradually increased “until they meet global rates”.

The plan is in line with a June report published by the Egyptian Center for the Advancement of Science, Technology and Innovation, or ECASTI, and titled Science, Technology and Innovation in Egypt: Status brief.

It called for “reforming the educational system to reflect the needs of the marketplace and incorporate the competencies necessary for innovative and entrepreneurial thinking”.

The ECASTI report urged a review of “all laws and policies directly and indirectly affecting innovation in universities, research centres and industry in a holistic way to remove obstacles and address any unintended consequences”. Also needed were investment in innovation in industry and support mechanisms for strong links with universities and research centres.

The HE plan

According to the strategic planning unit of the Ministry of Higher Education, the sector in Egypt incorporates 22 public universities and hundreds of higher education institutes and technical colleges that are run under the ministry’s supervision. There are 21 private universities.

The state universities employ 70,497 academics to teach more than 2.11 million undergraduate and postgraduate students.

To meet Egypt’s higher education challenges, the Plan for Higher Education includes 61 projects and initiatives covering 12 higher education fields. It will be implemented in two phases, the first from 2014-17 and the second from 2017-22.

The plan promotes legislative reform and improved governance of higher education, restructuring the national system, human resource development, increased availability of and access to universities across Egypt’s geographic areas, and the expansion of technical and technological education within universities and institutes.

It focuses on quality assurance and competitiveness, developing educational and academic programmes, promoting research and postgraduate studies, and developing administrative and institutional systems within universities as well as initiatives and tools for the production and dissemination of knowledge.

It aims to raise the level of educational services provided to students and to develop students’ basic skills, to enhance higher education outputs and link higher education to the needs of the labour market, and increase the integration of technology into the educational system.

The plan also concentrates on increasing the number of Egyptian and foreign university students – especially from Arab, Islamic and African states – through the establishment of five new universities each year.

Egypt is ranked as the second student destination in the Arab world after the United Arab Emirates and 19th among the top 20 destinations for international students in the world, according to UNESCO.

Five of the country’s most established universities were ranked in the 2013 QS World University Rankings, topped by the American University in Cairo placed at number 348.

Plan implementation

Among the first steps in implementing the plan was a 16 August agreement to establish a Korean university in Egypt and a 21 August announcement that a committee would be created to support the establishment of a university of applied technology.

Egypt and Korea forged a research cooperation plan in April 2013, and on 16 August Korea agreed to establish a university in Egypt that will start with engineering and information technology faculties and a professional training centre.

The new university of applied technology will have a multi-disciplinary academic structure offering a variety of programmes and will be involved in diversified research in several scientific and technological fields seen as important to development. It will focus on solving real problems through local, regional and international collaboration.