Internationalisation: Egypt expands foreign branch campuses

Egypt is establishing new branch campuses for international universities as part of its 2030 vision for sustainable development, and to become a transnational higher education hub.

The latest Egyptian move for developing foreign campuses is the signing of an agreement on 11 January 2023 between Cira Education and Canada-based Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology (SCAAT), establishing two branches for SCAAT.

Besides contributing to offering high-level and high-quality educational services to Egyptian students in various technological disciplines that characterise Seneca University, such as artificial intelligence, modern engineering, and business management, the two branches of Seneca University in Egypt will also contribute to attracting students from Arab and foreign countries.

This will make Egypt a regional and international centre in providing services in the field of higher education, scientific research, technology, and training, according to a statement posted on the ministry of higher education and scientific research’s Facebook page.

Up to the present, several foreign university branches have been established in the New Administrative Capital in Egypt – two branches of the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown, Canada, and Ryerson University in Toronto, hosted by the Canadian Universities Foundation; the Coventry University in the UK’s branch hosted by the International Knowledge Universities Foundation; British University of Hertfordshire branch hosted by The Global Foundation and a branch for the University of London and the British University of Central Lancashire hosted by the European University Foundation.

Educational benefits

Professor Hamed Ead of the faculty of science at Cairo University told University World News that “opening branches for international universities will help in enhancing domestic higher education quality, equipping graduates with the necessary skills for the labour market, providing international education in Egypt, and achieving greater diversity and increasing competitiveness.

“Of course, these new foreign universities’ branches will increase Egypt’s appeal to local, Arab, and African students who look for studying abroad along with reducing the academic brain drain. It remains to be seen, but it is a good start,” Ead said.

Expanding further, Nigel Healey, professor of international higher education and vice-president for global and community relations at the University of Limerick in Ireland, told University World News that, “there are several benefits to countries of hosting international branch campuses, including absorbing otherwise unmet demand for higher education, building capacity in new disciplines like cybersecurity, and accelerating the development of the domestic university system”.

Healey said: “For all these reasons, it makes sense for Egypt to welcome foreign universities where they can contribute to human capital development. Egypt has a huge population of 108 million and although tertiary participation rates are around 30%, the data show that less than half of the enrolled students graduate with a degree.”

At the moment, there are 3.6 million students at public and private universities in Egypt, representing a major opportunity for foreign educators offering post-graduate programmes, according to an article in the ICEF Monitor published on 22 December 2022 and titled ‘A primer on international student recruitment in Egypt’.

Healey said that there is clearly potential for international branch campuses to support the development of the domestic sector. He is a co-author of the 2022 British Council report titled, The value of transnational education partnerships.

Economic benefits

Egypt-based branches of foreign universities are not among the best 500 universities in the global map of university rankings except the University of London which ranked 351-400th in the 2023 World University Rankings by Times Higher Education (THE).

Asked whether commercial or revenue generation motives might be behind the branches of foreign universities established in Egypt, especially because most of them have modest and low positions in university ranking systems, Healey said: “I think the days of foreign universities viewing international branch campuses as a way of making easy money by selling low-cost courses are over.

“The British Council report on the impact of transnational education found that most UK universities – four of them have branches in Egypt – look at branch campuses as a way of building deep, long-term relationships with host countries which are mutually beneficial,” Healey pointed out.

The way forward

Ead said: “Egypt’s higher education internationalisation policy is on track and is taking the right steps forward, particularly through leveraging international resources and knowledge to build capacity and meet student demand along with developing the academic talent pool.”

But the question remains whether it can effectively balance quality and affordability, especially among international branch campuses, to ensure their financial sustainability, Ead pointed out.

Healey suggested that the international branch campuses should be embedded as quickly as possible in the higher education ecosystem, ensuring cooperation in both teaching and research with local universities.

This way, there will be benefits to the domestic higher education sector from technology transfer, while the branch campuses will become a conduit for knowledge about the region to flow back to the home universities, Healey concluded.