The Egyptian government has approved draft legislation enabling public universities to set the time required for a student to graduate in hours rather than academic years. Officials say this will allow some students to complete their degrees in three years instead of four and so reduce the cost of higher education to the state.
The credit-hour system has been applied in some disciplines since 2011, but not in conformity with the law. The Supreme Council of Universities has begun work to amend regulations so the new system can apply to all students starting their studies in the next academic year, 2021–2022.
“This historic amendment gives … students the opportunity to graduate immediately after they fulfill the number of credit hours required,” Adel Abdel Ghaffar, the media advisor to the minister of higher education and scientific research, said in a phone call.
The new system will also give students the freedom to choose their courses and professors in each semester separately, and allows them to select subjects from outside their college’s specialization in order to acquire skills that were not previously available to them.
The amendment the Supreme Council has worked on will remove the minimum requirement for various disciplines. Depending on their abilities, some students will be able to complete their studies in as short a time as three years, while others may need five years.
“There is a minimum number of years of study in credit hours that cannot be violated, which means that an engineering student cannot graduate in less than four years.”Khaled Abdel Ghaffar
Minister of Higher Education
In a phone call, Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, the minister of higher education and scientific research, explained, however, that “there is a minimum number of years of study in credit hours that cannot be violated, which means that an engineering student cannot graduate in less than four years.”
Reducing Costs for the State
The amendment comes with efforts to ease the burdens on the state budget and to develop higher education with new private universities and with foreign universities that will establish campuses in Egypt.
“The constitution stipulates that education is free for all and is covered by the state budget,” the minister said.
“However, every student who spends an additional academic year costs the state budget. So, giving them the opportunity to compensate for an academic year without affecting the academic content of the discipline will reduce the burden on the budget.” (See two related articles: “Rising Fees Make Students Quit Master’s Degrees in Egypt” and “The Price of Master’s and Doctoral Degrees Jumps in Egypt.”)
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Some academics have expressed fears that implementing the new system without changing the university’s admission rules will lead to lower standards.
Wael Kamel, a professor of music education at Helwan University, pointed out that the current admission system depends solely on the grades achieved in the high school exit exams and that many students enroll in disciplines they do not want. (See a related article, “Egyptian Government Suspends Bill to Reform University Admissions.”)
“Granting students the freedom to choose their course subjects, while most of them are in majors they did not choose in the first place, means that a large number of them will choose easy subjects given by professors who have a high success rate, regardless of the content of the course,” he said.
Mohamed Salem, a professor of curricula at Assiut University’s Faculty of Education, shared Kamel’s concerns, based on his previous experience. “Often, elective courses are determined by the college itself, but from other departments instead of determining elective courses from outside the major or by another college,” he said. “This limits the main goal of having an elective course.”
“Granting students the freedom to choose their course subjects, while most of them are in majors they did not choose in the first place, means that a large number of them will choose easy subjects given by professors who have a high success rate, regardless of the content of the course.”Wael Kamel
A professor of music education at Helwan University
Still, some students support the new amendment.
“I think that the new amendment will be in the best interest of outstanding students because the system is not easy and requires determination and will to finish the credits hours,” said Mohammed Abdel Mohsen, a third-year student at the English Department at the Faculty of Law in Assuit university. “I feel sad that the amendment will only be applied to new students.”