Egypt’s Academia: Two and Half Years After the Popular Uprising

Egypt academic atmosphere has not changed significantly 2.5 years after the popular uprising of January 25, 2011. According to Dr. Ashraf Hatem, the secretary general of the Supreme Council of Universities, the current plan is to boost higher education access, which is estimated at 25-28%, but little attention is paid to bettering the quality of higher education.

Presently, there are 18 public and 81 private higher education institutes and 23 and 19 private universities. The figures may show some tendency towards privatization of education. During the last 2.5 years, 7 existing public branches of universities have been converted into universities. They are mostly located outside the highly populated Cairo, Giza and Alexandria cities thus helping to relieve some of the over-crowdedness of universities in these large cities and allowing higher education access to students from more remote governorates.

One of the gains attributed to January 25 revolution is permitting faculty members to elect University President, the School Dean and Heads of Departments. However younger faculty members complained they comprise only 10% of the voting mass for School Deans and Departmental Heads. In addition, college electoral vote rather than individual faculty member votes is required to elect the University President. Surprisingly many of the Mubarak’s era administrations were reelected.

During Mubarak’s era, security and national intelligence forces exhibited heavy presence on university campuses, they interfered with the employment of faculty members and censored on-campus activities. A faculty member needed a security clearance before his/her appointment at university. After ousting Mubarak, security forces were evicted of campuses and interfered less in faculty members’ employment.  However, they still scrutinize university activities closely.

On a positive note, there has been a slight increase in overall education budget (from 3.8% to 4% of GDP). Higher education averaged 28% of the total education budget of which almost 70% is directed towards salaries of university faculty members and staff.  The public expenditure on education is expected to rise by 23.9% in 2013-2014’s budget.  However, universities still retain little control over their budgets and lack an effective supervision system.

When Mohamed Morsi was elected as the President post revolution, he promised to increase faculty members’ wages via a 3 stages process of which the first step has been implemented. But there are mounting doubts as to his ability to proceed with the 2 remaining steps due to the economic crisis threatening Egypt. Moreover, the presidential promise does not include university staff whose wages are very low.

Only 0.5% of Egypt’s GDP is geared towards scientific research and development in 2012. Most of the monies are used to pay salaries of overstaffed national research institutes, which have no defined research agenda and little money is given to fund research at public universities.  Since 2011, according to a government report, many Egyptian scientists left the country to seek better opportunities oversees.  To complicate matters more, the Ministry of Scientific Research restored 82% of its 2012- 2013 budget to the government without spending it, according to documents presented by the National Investment Bank of Egypt, Al Ahram newspaper reported.  As a result, commentators expect the budget for scientific research to be downscaled excessively next year.

Since Mubarak left power, both the military generals, who briefly ruled the country during the transition phase, and later Muslim Brotherhood, represented by President Mohamed Morsi, have neglected urgently needed Higher Education reforms and directed their attention towards acquiring more power and political control. With the expectation of further political unrest and mass protests, it seems such reforms are not expected soon.


El-Awady N. (2013). Higher education still suffering after the revolution, University World News Issue No:275.

Yehia M. (2013). Egypt science budget to be slashed, Nature Middle East

Lindsey U. (2012). Freedom and Reform at Egypt’s Universities, Carnegie Endowment For International Peace.

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