Professors receive presidential promises
University professors are happy with the results of their meeting with President Mohamed Mursi
On 7 July President Mohamed Mursi met with Minister of Higher Education Mohamed El-Nashar, the heads of public and private universities and representatives from university teaching staff clubs, reports Reem Leila. The meeting addressed the challenges facing higher education, including the need to find 1.2 million additional student places and develop research facilities.
Professors submitted draft amendments of the law regulating universities, copies of which have been sent to universities for approval. The draft, says Adel Abdel-Gawad, head of the Ministry of Higher Education's consultative council, has also been sent to the Cabinet for approval.
The draft increases university teaching salaries to make them commensurate with the pay of judges, a long standing demand. Mursi agreed to the increases, says Abdel-Gawad, and they have already been approved by the Finance Ministry and the People's Assembly. "Mursi promised to apply the increase this month, following cabinet approval and ratification by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces."
A full professor with 20 years teaching experience currently earns LE3,000 a month.
"In addition to accepting the draft law organising universities," says professor Mohamed Kamal, a member of the 6 April movement, Mursi also agreed to cancel the faculty approval currently required for professors aged 70 or above to continue teaching.
More than 6,000 university professors and teaching assistants will benefit from changes proposed in the draft, claims Abdel-Gawad. The new law will also promote greater independence among universities and increase scientific research budgets in addition to improving the living conditions of staff. Under the new draft academic staff will have the right to participate in any future changes to internal university legislation and take part in evaluating the performance of their university. The draft also sets criteria to assess the performance of university teachers, and prevents them from working outside the institutions where they are employed.
Awatef Abdel-Rahman, a professor at Cairo University's Faculty of Mass Communication and a member of the 9 March movement, said she was optimistic following the meeting with Mursi. She described the results as "a victory for university professors" who will now elect faculty deans and department heads as well as university presidents.
"The draft law organising universities stipulates that candidates for leadership posts within the university stand in internal elections. They will have to nominate themselves and say what they will do if elected. And in the future, the president will be drawn from among existing staff."
University teachers have long demanded a greater say in the running of the institutions at which they teach. Finally it appears within their grasp.
The meeting also discussed ways to increase the budget allocated to scientific research. Mursi, says Kamal, stressed the central role of scientific research in Egypt's future development, and was sympathetic to professors' demands that allocation be significantly increased.
"The issue must first be discussed with the finance minister and other concerned authorities," says Kamal. He estimated the current budget for scientific research at LE3 billion.