First Greek university branch campus to open in Egypt

The Greek government has facilitated an agreement with the Greek Community of Alexandria to establish the first Greek university abroad in the second largest Egyptian city.

Greece has been stepping up its internationalisation efforts through working with universities in the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States, China and India. The development in Egypt is seen as a further expansion on these ongoing efforts.

Christos Bouras, the rector of the University of Patras (UoP), and Andreas Vafiadis, who is the president of the Greek Community of Alexandria (GCA), signed the agreement on 22 September, according to the GCA’s website.

The Greek Community of Alexandria has close ties with the Greek and Egyptian authorities, which further enabled the agreement. As part of its aims to continue Hellenism in Egypt it has built schools and churches along with providing scholarships to help the youth of the community who wish to gain access to higher education in Greece or Egypt.

The importance of international branch campuses (IBCs), satellite sites of educational institutions, as tools of public and science diplomacy have been highlighted in a recent article in University World News.

Establishing a branch campus for UoP in Egypt is also in line with the 2023 Egyptian higher education and scientific research strategy. It focuses on enhancing internationalisation through promoting investment in the field of higher education by means of branch campuses for international universities to make Egypt a transnational higher education hub.

The new branch campus for the Greek UoP is the sixth foreign campus to be established in Egypt following the establishment of two Canadian institutions (Ryerson University Cairo and the University of Prince Edward Island, Cairo Campus), two British institutions (Coventry University and the University of Hertfordshire), located in the New Administrative Capital, and one German institution (Technical University of Berlin, El Gouna) as indicated in the March 2023 Branch Campus Listing prepared by the University of Miami's Cross-Border Education Research Team, or C-BERT.

First Greek university abroad

Estimated to be operational by 2025, the UoP branch will operate two departments: one Greek and one English-speaking in the subjects of Greek culture, Greek language and Greek philosophy. There will be tuition fees. The lecturing staff of the UoP branch are professors at the UoP in Greece and other external collaborators.

The UoP, founded in 1964, is the third largest university in Greece and includes 24 multidisciplinary departments divided between five schools.

Professor Christos Michalakelis, the president of Study in Greece, the national agency for the internationalisation of Greek Universities, told University World News the Greek government has positioned the legal framework” for the implementation of the campus.

According to Michalakelis the branch campus was an important step towards establishing Greece on the academic map as an international destination for education.

“Study in Greece promotes this and will continuously support the promotion of international programmes through its wide network and [through] the continuous promotion of its activities. Moreover, it will provide consulting and support to the university, according to its needs,” he said.

According to Michalakelis the initiative will promote the prospects of high-level international studies, thus attracting students from Egypt and the wider African continent to the branch, but also attract students to Greece.

“To attract international students to Greece as well as the quality of life that a student can have in Greece should be highlighted, which is characterised by safety, the low cost of living and a wonderful, sunny weather,” said Michalakelis.

He added other strong positive points such as Greek culture, as well as the significant progress the country has made in the development of technology, which is also a feature of the quality of studies that Greek universities can offer.

Enhancing Greece soft power

Stamelos Georgias, a professor of educational policy at the University of Patras in Greece, told University World News: “A well-developed campus in the culture-education-technology triangle could be a mechanism for the development of Greek-Egyptian relations and [could be an] attraction in the wider Mediterranean region and even beyond, from southeastern Europe to a large part of Africa.”

He said: “Establishing the first Greek university abroad in Egypt is a step forward for Greek higher education’s internationalisation efforts that could be an important pillar for strengthening Greece’s cultural diplomacy or soft power in Egypt and across Africa to serve Greek political, economic, religious and cultural agendas.”

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 that the branch was “not a surprise” as it emanated from Egypt’s and Greece’s political, diplomatic, and economic links.

“This is a positive move towards Egypt and Greece’s historical approach to reconciliation in the scientific realm,” he said.

“In addition to enhancing academic collaboration and knowledge exchange between the two countries, it creates opportunities for Egyptian students to access a high-quality education from a reputable Greek institution without the need to travel abroad.

This can contribute to the development of human capital and the advancement of various fields of study,” Ead stressed.

“In addition, the presence of the UP branch campus in Egypt can foster cultural exchange and understanding between Egypt and Greece along with providing a platform for intercultural dialogue and promoting diversity within the educational landscape,” Ead indicated.

Egyptian challenges

However, there are also concerns related to the campus’ establishment because of the Egyptian regulatory environment, cultural adaptation and quality assurance and accreditation. Tuition fees, the potential brain drain and a dependence on foreign institutions are also concerns.

Ead said balancing these challenges will require careful planning, collaboration, and strategic decision-making to ensure alignment with Egypt’s higher education development goals.

A November 2021 study, A Proposed Strategy for Developing International Branch Campuses (IBCs) System in Egypt, in the light of some International Experiences also indicated that IBCs must also consider local development needs, access and equity for students as well as connecting IBCs with local higher education institutions and research centres.