Students, academics oppose new university entry system

Some academics and students have slammed as unfair a new admissions system for public universities in Egypt, based on where students live. Which university a student is allowed to attend will be linked to the student's hometown.

For example, students living in Lower Egypt will no longer be allowed to study in Cairo University’s political science school, the most prestigious institution in this discipline.

Starting from the new academic year, those students will be obliged to apply for the state-run Alexandria University’s political science school.

Higher education authorities have said that the system is mainly aimed at reducing the numbers of students moving away from their hometowns for university study.

Also: “The Geographical Distribution System is necessary for developing Egypt’s provinces because attending faculties in Cairo only increases an exodus from provincial areas,” said Ashraf Hatem, head of the Supreme Council of Universities, which is responsible for higher education policy in Egypt.

He added that the move would ease the burden on state-subsidised university dormitories by lowering the number of ‘expatriate’ students.

According to Hatem, the number of new students admitted for the new academic year into Cairo University’s political science school has dropped by half to 400.


His argument has not impressed students.

Nader Hesham is one of them. Hesham, a resident of Red Sea province, scored 97.5% of the total marks in the secondary school examinations and wished to attend the political science school in Cairo.

But under the new admission rules, he has been registered at a nascent school majoring in political science in the Upper Egypt province of Beni Suef.

“I have scored enough to attend the political science faculty of Cairo University. However, the new system has forced me to go to the Beni Suef faculty, which does not fulfil my ambitions,” Hesham was quoted as saying by the independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Some lecturers are critical of the new system too.

“Having new political science faculties in some provincial universities does not mean they have the same academic stature as the one located in Cairo,” said Hassan Nafae, a political science professor at Cairo University, which is Egypt's biggest public academic centre.

“To ensure fairness and equal opportunities, students who want to study political science should be allowed to do this at any university in the country so long as they have obtained the required grades,” he added.

“Denying provincial students the chance to study at Cairo University is unfair."

Some support

But Jihan Youssri, dean of Cairo University’s mass communication faculty, advocates the new admission system.

“Easing the pressure on Cairo University’s mass communication faculty has become necessary now that a similar faculty is open in Beni Suef,” Youssri said.

“The Beni Suef faculty has been established along the same lines as the one in Cairo. Its teaching staff have been seconded from our faculty. So the academic levels at both faculties are equal.”

Cairo University’s mass communication faculty has been a major attraction for students majoring in media since it opened in 1974. The institution was the first of its kind at a public university in Egypt until 2013, when the mass communication faculty in Beni Suef started.

Under the new admission rules, Cairo’s mass communication faculty accepts students living in Cairo and Lower Egypt only. Students in other parts of the country have to apply to Beni Suef.

For the impending academic year, 800 new students have been enrolled at the Cairo-based mass communication faculty compared to 1,500 last year, according to official figures.