New scientific strategy is a shift towards sustainability

Egypt has launched a higher education and scientific research strategy to upgrade higher education institutions and develop Egyptian Universities 4.0 for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Egypt’s Vision 2030.

The strategy was unveiled on 7 March, according to the official Facebook page of the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

Ayman Ashour, the minister of higher education and scientific research, was quoted as saying that the launch of the strategy will be the start of a “serious societal dialogue to upgrade higher education and scientific research” in the country in accordance with Egypt’s sustainable development strategy and industrial revolutions globally.

The 2030 strategy is based on seven main axes, including integration, interdisciplinarity, communication, partnerships, sustainability, internationalisation, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Under the strategy, several initiatives will be launched including the establishment of a regional alliance of higher education institutions to achieve integration among seven geographical regions’ needs, economic activities and the academic programmes they offer.

The strategy will also focus on activating the role of higher education institutions and scientific research centres in supporting innovation and entrepreneurship through establishing business incubators and innovation centres and integrating entrepreneurship into teaching programmes.

Besides linking universities with industry to develop market-ready graduates, the strategy focuses on enhancing internationalisation through promoting investment in the field of higher education by means of facilitating the establishment of branch campuses for international universities.

The strategy also focuses on integrating modern sciences with university curriculums, including artificial intelligence, data analysis, programming and financial inclusion technologies, as well as creating a fourth generation of universities.

Egypt has 28 public universities, 27 private universities, 20 not-for-profit national universities, 10 technological universities, and seven branches of foreign universities along with more than 7,000 foreign students and more than 4,000 Egyptian students studying abroad, according to the strategy.

Implementation is key

Professor Ahmed El-Gohary, the former president of the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology, told University World News that implementation is key.

“I have doubts that the public (conventional) universities in Egypt are ready to join the fourth generation universities, unless they solve some of their deeply rooted problems,” El-Gohary said.

His views are supported by a 2020 study titled “The Conceived Proposal for Moving Egyptian Universities to Universities 4.0 in Light of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, which indicated that despite having some features of fourth generation universities, including providing some programmes electronically and by blended learning system, and offering some courses for developing self-learning skills along with contributing in developing technologies, Egyptian universities suffer from several weak characteristics.

“On the other side, the hope to enhance the existing higher education system in Egypt and to apply an executable new strategy is encapsulated in the recently established universities (after 2014-2015), exclusively, including the technical education universities provided to monitor the performance of those universities by the political regulator in Egypt, the ministry of higher education...” said El-Gohary.

Professor Hamed Ead, who is based in the faculty of science, Cairo University, and is the former cultural counsellor at the Egyptian Embassy in Morocco, told University World News, “If provided with the necessary support and implemented correctly, the strategy can help in upgrading existing universities and enhance their impact as tools for achieving sustainable development goals.”

“Initiating the move towards transforming traditional Egyptian universities to join the fourth generation universities movement is in line with efforts on the ground including the establishment of four national non-profit Egyptian universities, namely Al Alamein International, Galala, New Mansoura and King Salman International, which set up the Egyptian Smart Universities Network (eSUN),” Ead said.

“A developing University 4.0 model will need competencies in education, research and development and innovation, new learning methods, information and communication technologies associated with Industry 4.0, and innovative infrastructure to improve learning processes.

“I think developing industrial revolution 4.0 education transformation within Egyptian universities will need time to be realised,” said Ead.