WENR, June 2015: Middle East


US$250 Million for US-Egypt University Partnerships and Student Exchange

Egypt and the United States have launched a US$250 million, three-year initiative to enhance university partnerships and provide nearly 2,000 scholarships and exchanges for high-achieving Egyptians to study at home and in America.

Launched in April, the partnership initiative will “help Egyptian universities improve their competitiveness in the global knowledge-based economy and will provide the Ministry of Higher Education and the Supreme Council of Universities with technical assistance to develop a plan for critical higher education reforms,” said a U.S. embassy press release [1].

Under the US-Egypt Higher Education Initiative [2], the U.S. will provide up to 1,900 scholarships and exchanges to Egyptians in five scholarship components and in strategic fields that it is hoped will contribute to Egypt’s economic prosperity. The U.S. will also support up to 20 higher education partnerships to strengthen research and exchanges between Egyptian and U.S. universities, which will enhance the exchange of knowledge, opportunities for joint research and shared degree programs.

– University World News [3]
May 1, 2015

Egypt Announces Major Plans to Attract International Students

There are currently some 53,000 international students attending Egyptian institutions of higher education. Earlier this year, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Universities [4] announced a plan to grow that number four-fold within three years, under a strategy that has reportedly received funding from external and internal sources of US$50 million for this year alone. The target of international recruitment efforts will be students from Africa and the Arab region.

With funding from the Egyptian government and major donor agencies, most notably USAID and the EU, the plan entails a number of different priorities and strategies, including:

University World News reports that the strategy takes its lead from recommendations made in the European report [5], Review of Higher Education in Egypt, that states that Egypt should “create higher education institutions and programs in a way that they are attractive for expatriates from neighboring countries to come to study in Egypt.”

Currently, Egypt’s 23 public universities and 19 private universities play host to approximately two million students. If targets for international enrollment are met, the international student body would constitute close to 10 percent of all enrollments, up from 2.5 percent today.

Low travel, residence and tuition costs will appeal to regional students, as will the generally high standing of Egyptian universities in regional rankings. According to 2014 Best Arab Region Universities Rankings [6], Egypt is the top-performing country, with 21 universities in the overall rankings, accounting for 23 percent of all the ranked institutions. And Egypt has a long history of welcoming international students to its institutions of higher education.

Nonetheless, security concerns due to recent political instability and major protests and crackdowns focused on Egyptian university campuses will prove a difficult hurdle to overcome.

ICEF Monitor [7]
April 17, 2015


Professors Call for an End to Government Interference in Universities

A group of 700 Iranian university lecturers have sent a letter to the government calling for an end to what they say is “unprecedented interference” in the internal affairs of universities, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The Islamic Association of University Teachers of Iran said the signatories addressed the three branches of government to stop “extralegal” pressure on Iranian universities, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported in May.

The signatories did not specify the individuals or entities they accused of interference. But they cited several examples of powerful entities exerting such pressure. There was a reference to a canceled concert at the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, in northeast Iran, earlier this year. There was also mention of a canceled speech at the University of Tehran by lawmaker Ali Motahari, a relative moderate who has drawn criticism from hard-liners.

RFE/RL [8]
May 26, 2015

Saudi Arabia

California Community College Criticized for Helping Saudi Colleges

Criticism is growing over Rancho Santiago Community College District’s $105 million contract to help two technical schools in Saudi Arabia, The Los Angeles Times [9] reported. Faculty members have expressed concern that the contract is supporting discriminatory policies at the schools.

Now the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism, has weighed in with a letter to the college warning that it must abide by federal and state anti-bias laws even when it operates outside the U.S. “While we support programs that seek to establish collaborative relationships with universities in the Middle East, we do believe that special care must be taken when establishing programs where there are restrictions on the activities of programs based on characteristics such as religion, gender, national origin or sexual orientation,” said the letter.

Raul Rodriguez, chancellor of the district, said that it was in compliance with laws, but acknowledged that the Saudi government’s policies are discriminatory. The technical schools that Rancho Santiago is helping educate only male students and bar the hiring of female instructors to teach male students. But Rodriguez said that Rancho Santiago doesn’t do the faculty hiring. Of the college’s view of Saudi Arabia’s policies, he said, “It’s not an endorsement. We’re in no way condoning the views and stance of the Saudi government.”

Inside Higher Ed [10]
May 26, 2015