Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1402, (19 - 25 July 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1402, (19 - 25 July 2018)

Ahram Weekly

A city for the future

Reem Leila interviews President of the Zewail City of Science and Technology Sherif Sedki on its plans for science and technology education in Egypt

#Sedki with Al-Ahram Weekly reporter # photo: Zewail City website
# #

Ever heard of a smart bandage to help heal the wounds of people with diabetes within 20 to 25 days? A team from Egypt’s Zewail City of Science and Technology has developed a new kind of nanoparticle wound dressing that could deliver drugs and help to bring about such healing.

Researchers from the University have also developed a diagnostic kit for the Hepatitis C virus that is both affordable and quick. “It will be available for public use within the next two years,” Sherif Sedki, executive president of Zewail City, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

It is such innovations that Zewail City hopes to produce more of to benefit Egyptian society and the wider world.

Founded by Ahmed Zewail, the 1999 Egyptian Nobel Prizewinner in Chemistry, the city aims to be a beacon of scientific and technological innovation in Egypt. Though its foundation stone was laid in January 2000, it was only a few weeks ago, 18 years later, that the city celebrated the graduation of its first batch of students, around 250 from the classes of 2017 and 2018.

Constructed on 200 feddans in 6 October City, the campus of the new City is technologically and environmentally advanced and is equipped with the most modern and advanced facilities. It has been designed to provide innovative resources to students and faculty members alike, and these should further augment Zewail City’s reputation as one of the leading academic institutions in Egypt, Sedki said.

The campus expresses one of the city’s goals, which is to help build effective public participation in science and to elevate national technologies to the international level. “We will provide a merit-based education founded on creative thinking and engage with the public at large to contribute to the construction of a knowledge-based society,” Sedki told the Weekly.

Besides its educational and research facilities, the campus is also designed to accommodate exhibitions, performances, and many outdoor functions, in addition to having state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment and technical facilities. Residential areas for students and faculty are available, in addition to modern IT facilities with wireless networking and smart classrooms.

A non-profit establishment, the city is comprised of various sections, including the University of Science and Technology, the Research Institutes, and the Technology Pyramid which takes the outcomes of the city’s research and delivers them to the outside world. There is also the City Academy and the Centre for Strategic Studies.  

There are seven separate research institutes that will be increased to 12 in the future.

The city aims to work in all scientific fields required for the development of Egyptian society, including medical sciences, nano-sciences and informatics, imaging and visualisation, basic sciences, energy, the environment and space, economics and global affairs and virtual education.

Sedki said the city will not be an isolated island of excellence either. It will coordinate and cooperate with different universities and research centres nationally and internationally, he said.

Similar universities should be built elsewhere in the country, he added. “This will help to intensify the effects of the city. We can be a model for other educational institutes in choosing staff and students,” he said.

The government has started taking steps to establish similar science-based institutions at Al-Galala in Ain Sokhna, Al-Tor in Sinai, and in the New Capital, he added.

According to Sedki, Zewail University is the first in Egypt to have its qualifications accredited by the Supreme Council of Universities for the coming five years. Usually accreditation is granted annually, he explained. After the graduation of its third batch of students the University will be eligible for international accreditation. “We seek to gain international accreditation for all our faculties,” Sedki said.

The city also intends to establish a primary and secondary school where a special curriculum will be taught. It will be similar in concept to Zewail University, with the teachers trained in the latest methods of pedagogy. Once again, this model can also be replicated elsewhere, Sedki said.

Students who want to enter the university must have high scores in their Thanaweya Amma high-school exams or equivalent international certificates. They must also pass the university’s admission exams, which constitute 60 per cent of acceptance grades. “The admission exams are essential as they help us to select talented students in different fields,” Sedki said, adding that there was also an interview and an English exam.

Tuition fees for the new university are LE125,000 per year, but only three per cent of students pay full fees. “The remaining students are exempted. We are also considering providing further financial aid,” Sedki said, adding that student fees only make up three per cent of the city’s revenues.

The city this year organised a careers fair for its students to which it invited 50 different companies from the private and public sectors to give them an idea of the university’s faculties. Starting next academic year, it will raise the number of accepted students to 450 from the current 300. “The university started with only 150 students, but the number has increased gradually,” Sedki said, adding that it could accommodate up to 2,000 students.

The university’s specialties are different from those offered at other universities in Egypt, he said, and included environmental engineering, nanotechnology engineering, renewable energy engineering, energy and bioprocess engineering and aerospace engineering. It also offers specialties in biomedical sciences, materials science, and nano-sciences, as well as the physics of the earth and universe.

“Each of these specialties is taken further by one of our research institutes. Students of these different majors are entitled to enter the institutes to apply what they study through practical experiments,” Sedki said.

The city aims to bring scientific research to the wider community, and early examples include the Hepatitis C kit and the bandage for diabetics.

The Technology Pyramid of the city will provide opportunities for research cooperation with various sectors of industry. Many of these already have a presence at Zewail City, especially those benefitting from research and development.

“We intend to convert industries from ones that buy in their technologies to ones that develop their own know-how. This is one of the main aims of the city,” Sedki concluded.

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