Egypt’s private higher-education institutions cannot absorb all of the country’s high school graduates, so they must be allowed to go abroad to study and work, and to contribute to the national economy, says Mohamed Helmy El-Ghor, secretary-general of Egypt’s Council of Private Universities.
In an interview with Al-Fanar Media, El-Ghor said a shortage of faculty members was also a major problem for Egypt’s private universities. The institutions also face challenges in marketing and tuition fees, he said.
Besides its public universities, Egypt has 27 private universities and four private community universities, with between 250,000 to 300,000 students in 169 faculties. These students form about 8 to 10 percent of the Egyptian total.
Too Much Focus on Tuition
Egyptian private universities need to study surrounding countries because “they live in a bubble, isolated from the world,” El-Ghor said. “They only seek profit. No one is questioning the reasons for the small rates of student enrollment. Universities do not have a marketing study.”
Private universities in Egypt face strong competition in the region, especially from institutions in Jordan and Turkey, which offer lower prices, he said. Yet tuition should not govern private universities, he added. “Universities with lower tuition fees attract more students, meaning that nobody is focusing on quality.”
He also believes that the era of students’ pursuit of universities is over and universities must now market themselves to students. “We contracted with one private university to study why students were reluctant to apply to pharmacy and engineering colleges.”
In his wide-ranging conversation with Al-Fanar Media, El-Ghor touched on several other matters of concern for private universities.
Quality of Online Certificates
Many students try to study on online platforms to obtain certificates. El-Ghor worries that such a method is incomplete. “We do not recognize online education as a means to train graduates,” he said. “They should experience university life, live with and communicate with others, realise the value of the teaching staff, attend study halls, labs, and training courses to develop their skills.”
“Our problem is the lack of a policy to stop [graduates of private universities’ medical schools] going abroad. … Our doctors are very welcome in England, especially after its exit from the European Union. Germany is also open to Egyptian doctors.”Mohamed Helmy El-Ghor
El-Ghor believes that supporting entrepreneurship is very important but there were limitations. It should be within the university structure, and universities should have professors who could support entrepreneurs. “Public universities have succeeded, on this issue but it is difficult for private universities,” he said.
El-Ghor also acknowledged that there are few accredited private universities. “Accreditation is a challenge for these universities, but it is the only way to know the quality of education.”
Still, private universities needed to concentrate on accreditation because it is one of the means by which students chose their university, he said.
Keeping Pace with the Labour Market
El-Ghor also discussed the Egyptian state’s plans to meet labour market needs when establishing new colleges, especially those related to technology, digital transformation, and artificial intelligence. Some universities have cancelled computer colleges and turned them into artificial intelligence colleges, he said, while others have launched artificial intelligence departments.
The next stage will require a lot of technicians, he said, especially in the medical field and areas like laboratories, radiology, optics, prosthetics and medical devices. “We have 550,000 high school graduates. The local market cannot absorb this number, but they must be educated well and allowed to work abroad. They will subsequently provide hard currency and support the national economy.”
Not Enough Faculty Members
El-Ghor also talked about the shortage of faculty members that private universities face.
“Each university has a specific percentage of faculty members, which is about 3 percent of the total number of students in practical faculties, and 2 percent in theoretical faculties. About 70 to 80 percent of colleges meet these requirements. The rest are trying to get there.”
He said the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research had decided not to link the numbers of students to faculty members in university admissions. In next year’s admissions, students would be admitted according to the availability of faculty members rather than the ratio of faculty members to the number of students.
To confront this challenge, El-Ghor wants to appoint Ph.D. holders from outside the university, especially those in their 40s. He said public universities had large numbers of faculty members but it was difficult to recruit them to private universities because many preferred the mandate system that allows them to work in more than one college at a time.
“Ph.D. holders can be appointed as educators, and they will be educationally qualified as faculty members,” he said. “This will help solve the crisis of Ph.D. holders looking for a job, and the shortage of faculty members in private universities. It is a proposal that can be implemented if approved by the Ministry of Higher Education. This solution does not include holders of professional doctorates.”
The Future of Theoretical Colleges
This academic year, the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education admitted 47,000 students in private universities, compared to 42,000 last year. The increase is because of four new universities have opened, he said.
“We have 550,000 high school graduates. The local market cannot absorb this number but they must be educated well and allowed to work abroad. They will subsequently provide hard currency and support the national economy.”Mohamed Helmy El-Ghar
El-Ghor said theoretical colleges in private universities have low enrollment rates, while their counterparts in public universities accommodate tens of thousands of students. “Private universities rely on a group of health-related colleges, which represent the main source of income, while theoretical colleges are just complementary,” he said.
El-Ghor said officials had overcome this difficulty by stopping g approvals for theoretical colleges.
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He said that Sherif Ismail, an assistant to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for national and strategic projects, is heading a committee that examines applications for new universities or colleges. The committee determines the need for as college, as well as its geographical scope.
For example, “If a university submitted a request for a law school, the committee would request that the study should be in English and French and that graduates should be specialists in international contracts,” he explained.
El-Ghor also praised the curricula of medical faculties at Egypt’s private universities and how they keep pace with developments.
“We have no problem with the scientific credibility of our medical schools,” he said. “Our problem is the lack of a policy to stop our graduates going abroad. There are financial and legal problems facing the medical professions in Egypt. Our doctors are very welcome in England, especially after its exit from the European Union. Germany is also open to Egyptian doctors.”