Educational tourism initiative lures international students

Egypt has launched an educational tourism initiative that will provide scholarships and residency rights along with cultural support benefits to attract Arab, African and foreign students to study at its universities and higher education institutions for economic and educational gain.

The Egyptian Initiative for Scholarships and Educational Tourism – dubbed EGYAID, was launched by Ayman Ashour, the minister of higher education and scientific research, on 28 August 2023.

EGYAID is part of the larger Study in Egypt programme under the country’s National Strategy for Higher Education 2030 which promotes Egypt as a preferred study destination for international students.

The new initiative is managed by the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in cooperation with the ministries of transport and civil aviation, and tourism and antiquities, and culture. These ministries will work together to support and provide services to international students.

The new initiative is in line with a December 2020 study titled, ‘Origin and characteristics of educational tourism’, that indicated that the development of educational tourism requires cooperation between the education and tourism sectors to combine the educational and tourism product of the destination to attract students, researchers and academic staff.

Tourism, education contribute to SDGs

Tourism and education are contributors to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Education promotes SDG 4 (‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’), and tourism promotes SDGs 8, 12 and 14 (‘Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’, ‘Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’ and ‘Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’).

More scholarships, better support

The number of international students applying for undergraduate programmes at Egyptian universities increased by 33% in the academic year 2022-23 compared to the previous year, with numbers up from 25,701 to 34,403, according to figures released by the higher education ministry.

To increase the number of international students at Egyptian universities, the new initiative will offer more scholarships to foreign students and provide comprehensive social, cultural, and medical support services.

Under the initiative, several new programmes of its kind will be developed at public, private, national, and technological universities that foreign students can enrol in, including in new fields and specialisations such as artificial intelligence and robotics and new and renewable energy.

An educational visa for international students will also be introduced, which grants foreign students all the rights associated with residency during their study period.

Besides providing a 25% discount for foreign students and their families travelling on EgyptAir and granting foreign students discounted subscription cards for domestic travel, full and partial scholarships for foreign students will be offered at the Egyptian Academy of Arts along with a 50% discount on all cultural creativity centres, and 50% on tickets for Egyptian concerts and operas.

Academic quality should improve first

Magdi Tawfik Abdelhamid, research professor of plant physiology at Cairo’s National Research Centre, welcomed the new initiative. “Egypt and several countries in North Africa, including Morocco, have many advantages that could make them a hub for educational tourism,” he told University World News.

“Besides the low cost of living for students in Egypt compared to Western countries and competitive tuition fees compared to the rest of the world, English is the language of instruction in scientific, medical, and allied medical faculties and in many other disciplines,” Abdelhamid pointed out. “The new initiative will help Egypt get a higher share of the global educational tourism market.”

The global educational tourism market was estimated at US$365.9 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 13.0% from 2023 to 2030, according to the 2023 Educational Tourism Market report.

To be an ideal hub for educational tourism, Egypt must improve the quality of academic education, universities, and accreditation of higher education programmes, Abdelhamid said. This is in line with a research study that showed educational tourism will grow due to the quality and segmentation of higher education based on the comparative advantages of each country.

The study stated that “government should take the quality of services for existing students, price decisions and quality of university into account to promote the country as a tertiary education hub and achieve sustainable development”.