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Now, it's Germany's turnBy Shaden Shehab
During his visit to Bonn last week, President Hosni Mubarak agreed with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to establish the first German university in Egypt. The news was no surprise. Several weeks earlier, Mubarak had mentioned the possibility. Moreover, the founding committee had submitted a request to establish the university to the Ministry of Higher Education in 1997.
Committee representative Zakya Taher told Al-Ahram Weekly that the university will be inaugurated in the year 2001. It's to be called "The German University for the Middle East in Egypt".
"This is a rather long title, but it has significance," Taher said. She explained that the university is conceived as regional and international in character, not limited to Egyptian students but also open for qualifying students from the entire Middle East region and other countries. At present, there are four German schools in Egypt with a combined student body of about 5,000. Moreover, the university will be the only government-sponsored German university in the Middle East, "making us proud of our achievement," said Taher, who taught medieval German literature at Göettingen and Marburg universities.
The university will be bilingual, with part of the German curriculum also taught in an English-language section. The university will function in partnership with universities in Germany and the courses will correspond to those taught there. The teaching staff, though initially German, will develop to include Egyptians and possibly other nationals.
The university will be established in two phases, Taher said. The first will feature technological studies, such as bio-technology, genetic engineering, communications and business management. In the second phase, pharmacology, linguistics, and pedagogic studies, will be added. At a later stage, programmes for medical training, dentistry and veterinary medicine, will be established. "It is our purpose to introduce new sciences that are not taught in other universities," Taher said.
"We also aim to link the technological sciences to the needs of the Egyptian and Arab societies and their industries," she added.
No decision has been taken yet on the location of the university, although Sinai was mentioned as a possibility in the feasibility study submitted to the Ministry of Higher Education. "Sinai is not excluded but we [the founding committee] are examining other options. Cairo certainly is not one of them," Taher said.
Members of the founding committee are scheduled to meet with Minister of Higher Education Moufid Shehab at the end of this month to discuss the location and other matters. Taher had met Shehab last month to discuss the curricula, departments, teaching staff and location.
The founding committee of eleven includes several German university professors as well as Hassan Sherif, Egypt's cultural attaché in Bonn.
As to financing, Taher said that the "money is available" but would not divulge resources until final arrangements were made. "Financing will certainly follow the rules and regulations of the private universities' charter and it will not be an investment opportunity for businessmen," she said. The annual tuition fee will be about LE10,000.
Shehab told the Weekly, "We fully support all private universities as long as they keep a high profile. The main objective of any private university should not be profit, but to provide quality education and new specialisations that are needed in our society." He added that the German and French universities "are expected to provide technological specialisations that are needed in Egypt and turn out distinguished graduates who will help Egyptian society prosper." A French university will also open its doors by the year 2001.
The American University in Cairo (AUC) has been operating since 1919. In July 1996, a presidential decree was issued approving the establishment of four more private universities: Misr International University, the University of Modern Sciences, the Sixth of October University and the University of Science and Technology. All four have come under fire for charging tuition fees which run as high as LE30,000 annually.
The Private Universities Law passed recently stipulates that a representative of the Ministry of Higher Education should be stationed at each private university to provide periodical reports on their activities. At the time, the Supreme Universities Council announced that it would not recognise the degrees granted by private universities until the first batch of students graduated. However, since last year, the council decided to recognise these degrees if the university and its curricula were up to the required standards. Evaluation is the responsibility of committees branching out from the Supreme Council. Already, the business administration degrees granted by these universities have been recognised by the council.