What are the Higher Education Ministry’s investment priorities going into the new fiscal year? Aside from the usual suspects, it’s tech. As the Finance Ministry dots the i’s and crosses the t’s on the FY2021-2022 state budget, Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar and Planning Minister Hala El Said sat down last month to discuss the details of the Higher Education Ministry’s investment plan and priorities for the coming fiscal year. And while we don’t yet have precise figures for the Higher Education Ministry’s total budget allocations in the upcoming fiscal year, one thing is clear: While health / medical education and scientific research remain important, there is a concerted effort to push forward with tech universities to meet labor market needs.
Gov’t is pouring some EGP 1 bn into tech universities alone: Six new tech universities will be set up in East Port Said, 6 October, Borg Al Arab, Luxor, Assiut, and Gharbia’s Samanoud. These are in addition to three new tech universities recently set up in New Cairo, Quesna and Beni Sueif. The cost of setting up the three recently-established tech universities and the six new planned ones is approximately EGP 1 bn, estimates Ahmed El Hayawi, Secretary-General of the Education Development Fund.
For context: The higher education sector as a whole was allocated some EGP 122 bn from the EGP 2.2 tn state budget for FY2020-2021, out of a total of EGP 424 bn for education, higher education, and scientific research. That means education, higher education, and research accounted for around 19.3% of total spending, and higher education spending accounted for 5.5% of the overall budget.
The aim is to get them up and running quickly: Four of the six new tech universities should be ready to accept students in September 2021, El Hayawi tells Enterprise: Assiut, Luxor, Borg Al Arab and 6 October.
And by 2030, a total of 14 tech universities will be set up across the country as part of the government’s Vision 2030 plan, adds Mohamed Helmy El Ghar, head of the Supreme Council of Private Universities.
The goal? To produce students whose skills match the labor market’s needs. The universities are designed to provide new specializations that better qualify students for the labor market, El Ghar tells Enterprise. This plan has seen new disciplines introduced into tech universities: New energy programs, automotive technology, mechatronics engineering, gas technology, and manufacturing artificial limbs, El Hayawi adds.
There’s a clear link between science and tech studies and employability, Future University of Egypt head Ebada Sarhan tells Enterprise. Future University conducts annual surveys to track student employment after graduation, and observes consistently high employment rates ― close to 100% ― among graduates of scientific disciplines, he adds.
The push towards tech universities also entails encouraging students to enroll, which is the mandate of Egypt’s first tech syndicate — whose establishment Cabinet formally approved last month, says El Hayawi. The syndicate is responsible for promoting a “cultural shift” towards pursuing technical and technological specializations in higher education, he says.
And a push for more private sector participation and internationalization: The hope is that university curriculum reforms will encourage private sector investment in the education sector, says Higher Education Minister spokesperson Adel Abdel Ghaffar. Leveraging international partnerships is designed to meet the same goal. One of the new tech universities has entered into a partnership with a South Korean university, to localize tech expertise, as private universities in Egypt do, Abdel Ghaffar tells Enterprise.
Taking their lead from the government, private universities are following suit by introducing new tech specializations. Egypt’s private universities are also introducing new specializations and disciplines, with a focus on practical training, Sarhan tells Enterprise. The cost of establishing new technical or scientific colleges is significant, though ― each one might cost EGP 500 mn because of the laboratories and training facilities that are a Higher Education Ministry requirement, estimates Sarhan.
But tech isn’t the only area of higher education that’s expanding. With growing demand and investment interest — including in governorates outside urban centers — the government is working on setting up more local universities. Three new local universities ― King Salman University, Al Alamein International University, and Al Galala University ― started admitting students in September 2020. Mansoura International University is on track to open in the coming academic year, says El Ghar. And more local universities have been granted approval, according to El Ghar, one of which El Hayawi says is a new establishment in Helwan.
Also still playing key roles in the ministry’s plans: Developing Egypt’s health system — in which university hospitals play a “key” role, El Said said — and expanding scientific research. The reliance on university hospitals became particularly evident since the onset of the pandemic, as many were set up as dedicated quarantine facilities. And with the national healthcare system needing all the support it can get, the need for increased investment in equipment, manpower and training in university hospitals is clear, argues Mohamed Kamel, professor at Alexandria University’s Faculty of Medicine, in an Alexandria Journal of Medicine article.
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