2020 in review: How internationalization was the core policy to improve higher education and attract investment: In a year where we’ve seen schools having to adapt to lockdown measures and online learning, survival and adaptation was the name of the game for K-12. But at the university level, internationalization became the policy driving the sector in 2020. The strategy includes infusing foreign courses and curricula into institutions, partnering with overseas bodies, seeking international accreditation, attracting international students, and giving Egyptians that might look abroad more incentives to study here.
The aim: To increase in-country expertise, educational quality and investment. It’s characterized by a focus on partnerships — between the public and private sectors and between Egyptian and non-Egyptian bodies.
Becoming a hub for international students: The ongoing strategy aims to increase the total number of foreign students in Egypt to 200k. Their numbers were estimated at 87k a year ago.
And giving Egyptians who would normally seek better quality education overseas reasons to study here. Some 20-34k Egyptians currently study abroad, spending the equivalent of EGP 20 bn attending university overseas, and contributing to a brain drain which government representatives say they want to change to a “brain circulation.”
It’s a path well trodden in the GCC and Malaysia: The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Malaysia all top lists of global destinations for overseas students, having successfully implemented internationalization strategies. Saudi Arabia saw international student numbers rise from 18.7k in 2008 to 73k in 2017.
In Egypt, internationalization came by pairing Egyptian institutions with foreign ones and encouraging foreign institutions to open shop here. We’ve seen this in three major initiatives: forcing existing universities to partner with foreign ones, the international branch campuses program, and education franchising.
Gov’t pushed local operators to seek overseas expertise: A policy issued two years ago was enforced this year, that new universities seeking licenses in Egypt must form academic partnerships with foreign universities. The Egyptian university must offer at least some of the degrees and curricula of the partner university, provisions must be made for a study-abroad program for Egyptian students, and partnerships can only be formed with universities ranked higher in global indices than the highest-ranked Egyptian university. Existing institutions wanting to launch new faculties and departments are also bound by the regulations.
And made it easier for international universities to set up here: Under the International Branch Campuses Act (pdf), ratified in July 2018, established international universities can set up branches in Egypt, by building their own campuses, or partnering with an Egyptian educational hub. They offer undergrad and graduate degrees from their home countries, generally with a STEM focus, while ensuring “a path to equivalence” with Egyptian university degrees.
Branch campuses have flourished: Four universities have established branches in the New Administrative Capital since the Act was ratified. This included the branch campuses of Coventry University, the University of Prince Edward Island, the he University of Hertfordshire, and an alliance of 10 German universities, set to collectively open the German International University of Applied Sciences. Though covid delayed universities completing necessary paperwork or securing government approvals, these were temporary disruptions, sources said in July.
Light-touch regulation proved an effective way to secure private sector investment: Unlike in K-12, foreigners have the right to own up to 100% of their branch in Egypt, and there are no restrictions on tuition hikes. Furthermore, branch campuses have the liberty to set their own curriculum. The branch campuses pay only 2% of their annual tuition income to the government. Coventry, Prince Edward Island, and Hertfordshire’s branch campuses brought in over EGP 2 bn in new greenfield investments, and four new Canadian universities that had requested to open branches in Egypt as of July were set to bring investments reaching EGP 3 bn.
Education franchising — a wholly private sector initiative — also grew: Egypt only has a few international education franchises, but they’re increasing. Upcoming franchises include Kent College West Cairo, which is due to open in the fall of 2022 and Saxony International School Egypt, which is set to open in 2021-2022 as a franchise of German holding company Saxony International School, in partnership with CIRA and education management company Eduhive.
But to grow further, regulation needs to keep up with the private sector: As things stand today, there is no regulatory framework governing education franchises in Egypt. This is particularly important to education franchisors coming to Egypt, who must ensure that their brand reputation will be protected, we’re told. Dedicated franchising regulation covering registration, rights and responsibilities, intellectual property, and disclosures is essential for education franchising to grow.
Internationalization has been widely seen as a positive step: The international cooperation push we’ve seen this year is crucial to expand the market, meet soaring demand for university places, and transfer knowledge, say education leaders. There’s a good chance it will bring more international students to Egypt and encourage more Egyptians to study here, they add. Branch campuses could be effective in connecting Egyptian students seeking education in OECD countries to international universities, say sources.
And while covid wreaks havoc on the sector, internationalization might be a chance for Egyptian universities to shine. Travel restrictions, extra costs and disruption impacted international students in the UK and US in particular this year, and left the global education industry anticipating reduced demand for international study. We don’t know if this will send more students back home in the long-term, but it gave top-tier Egyptian universities a chance to show they’re viable competitors to overseas institutions, representatives say.
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