Cabinet approves draft law for technological universities

Egypt’s cabinet has approved a draft law on the establishment of technological universities that will open their doors to students in the next academic year. The legislation is aimed at improving technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and boosting the employability of youth.

The draft law approved on 17 May will enable the creation of eight technological universities that will be built across Egypt, three of which are under construction in New Cairo, Quesna and Beni Suef, according to an El Watan news report.

The establishment of the universities are in line with the Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt Vision 2030, which focuses, among other things, on producing industry and market-ready graduates.

"Practice-oriented technological universities will contribute substantially to productive employment and help resolve the mismatch between practical skills and labour requirements by providing an effective transition from education to work," said Hassan Moawad Abdel Al, former president of Alexandria's City for Scientific Research and Technology Applications, Egypt.

The ‘luxury unemployment’ phenomenon, a term used to describe the higher rates of unemployment among university graduates, is evident in Egypt, according to a 2016 report entitled Educated but Unemployed: The challenge facing Egypt’s youth. According to the report, 34% of the total unemployed Egyptian population comprises university graduates along with 16% technical school ‘TVET’ graduates and 27% technical institute graduates.

Abdel Al said that technological universities are likely to help in supporting economic transformation, providing technology solutions to small and medium enterprises, and contributing in social development through enhancing technical and vocational education and training.

The teaching at the new universities will be based on the integration of applied and theoretical studies. Students will receive training at companies whose specialties are linked to their courses.

Technological universities will be state institutions with their own executive regulations, but this does not prevent the private sector from entering the field.

Under the law, a higher council of technological universities will be established to plan its general policies, guidelines and regulations at technical, financial administrative and academic levels, including teaching and research programmes. In addition, a nation-wide union of technologists to include graduates of technological universities and technical institutes will be established to represent their views, opinions, queries and professional concerns.

Graduates of technical secondary education, including commercial, agricultural, industrial and technical secondary schools, will have the chance to study at technological universities for two years and receive diplomas. In addition, students of technical institutes will study for four years and receive a bachelor degree in technology. Technological universities will also be available to holders of general secondary school certificates.

Postgraduate studies at both masters and doctoral levels will also be available at technological universities.

TVET is already a major part of the Egyptian education system as around 2 million students are enrolled in the country’s 1,600 technical high schools. As many as 250,000 go on to state-run, post-secondary technical institutes, and thousands take courses at the 230 vocational training centres scattered across the country, according to CID Consulting.

The establishment of the universities has been widely welcomed.

Jeffrey Ayala Milligan, professor of philosophy of education and international and comparative education, and director of the Learning Systems Institute at Florida State University, United States, described it as “an important step forward in developing the long-neglected sector of TVET national education systems and the provision of education that will no doubt contribute significantly to the economic well-being of the Egyptian people."

"Governments all over the world are recognising the importance of improving post-secondary vocational-technical education through integrating theoretical or academic education and practical training, as modern industry is requiring ever more sophisticated job skills,” said Milligan, who is the principal investigator of the Community College Administrator Program.

The Community College Administrator Program is a US State Department initiative intended to enhance international understanding of US community colleges and systems among administrators of post-secondary vocational and technical institutions, as well as officials with higher education planning responsibilities in selected countries, like Egypt, which are in the process of developing their own community college systems.

"For centuries, we have dichotomised academic and vocational education around the world, offering higher education as the route to social status and relegating vocational education to lower classes destined to work only with their hands," Milligan said.

"This is a major reason that TVET is so often seen as a last resort for students and their families.

"But in the modern workplace we need both: we need skilled technicians who can think, who can apply knowledge to the solution of practical problems, and we need knowledgeable people who know how to do things.”

"This is one challenge that all contemporary educational systems face,” he said.