It is known that Alexandria University was established in 1938 as a satellite of Fouad University. It was known as Farouk University until the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 when its name was changed to the University of Alexandria.
According to “British magazine “Times Higher Education”, the university was ranked within the top 100 universities. SEE interviewed its president Essam El-Kurdi.
Here is the excerpt of the interview,
When will the University of Alexandria precede its counterparts’ ranking in Cairo?
I would like to clarify that Alexandria University is the second oldest one in Cairo. It was even established before Ain-Shams University. The first oldest one is Cairo University. The university was founded in 1938 as a branch of Cairo University. Afterward, in 1942 , it became independent.
Focusing on the university ranking amongst its counterparts, whether in Egypt or abroad, it directly comes after Cairo University. The university’s graduates stand out everywhere, especially in Canada, Europe, USA, Japan and East Asia.
In addition, the university has branches in Chad and South Sudan. In this regard, I would like to mention that our cooperation with the African nations is fruitful.
We offer 35 annual scholarships to ten of the Nile Basin countries. This number increased this year to reach 50 scholarships.
Regarding the area of the community service, we are cooperating with the African countries including Kenya and Tanzania, through various caravans.
Cooperation with Africa is to apply the saying “Egypt Is the Gate to Cross Africa” or is it the university’s policy from the beginning?
It is the policy that the university follows 15 years ago. Since the sixties, the university receives many African students. I would like to add that the government and the diplomatic entities in South Sudan, including around 45 ministers graduated from Alexandria University. For example, South Sudanese Former Ambassador graduated from the university’s Faculty of Arts.
How many African students are currently studying at the university?
We have 900 African students. We have around 5,500 students from different countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman.
What did the university do to qualify for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Firstly, we introduced Artificial Intelligence into computer programs and communications in the Faculty of Engineering, so that there are optional courses for students to choose from until we upgrade the college register. The same will be applied to the Artificial Intelligence Master’s degree programs.
Meanwhile, we are working to establish computing and scientific data faculty. The first step is introducing five new data sciences majors, which is the core of the approaching technological revolution. Thus, there is an urge to know how to utilize data in line with the ongoing technological advancement across various fields.
Does this mean lessening the number of students enrolling to Egyptian universities?
No, Limiting the number of university students is not the solution, yet redistributing them over new study programs. The future labor market requires reorienting students towards technological fields; there is no need for the surge of law, commerce and arts graduates.
How do you rate competition in-between public universities and their private and foreign counterparts in Egypt?
We are waiting for the issuance of the executive regulations of the law on incentives for scientific research. It will give opportunity for public universities to enter into a partnership, setting up new institutions. We hope the law brings flexibility and freedom to the sector.
In fact, public university graduates are well-educated, yet they lack personal skills such as self-expression.
We have been trying to fill this gap in the past five years. Career Development and Entrepreneurship have been established, to enable graduates to compete in the labor market.
Besides, the university has inked agreements with several skills development and civil society organizations to arm our graduates with a unique personality.
Another effort is introducing a recent international entrepreneurship course. It will be a prerequisite for graduation; the university has access to its online test.
Why is the university electronic course important in the technological era and the tablet study?
We have an experiment and it’s still in front of the Supreme Council of Universities. It started from the end of the academic year, not the current one at the Commerce Faculty. We have transformed all courses into electronic topics.
The e-course is not an explanation for the book, but it is an interactive electronic course used by a technical group of teachers and assistant teachers in each major.
Did the experiment succeed?
Already, it has succeeded, and there is no so-called university book. The strategy is currently working at the Arts College, and the next academic year, electronic courses will be introduced. This will be followed by the Law Faculty. But we will have an obstacle, the copyright, and publishing, an issue we are trying to resolve that with publishers.
Will they receive tablets?
They do not need tablets, because the mobile can open the curriculum through existing links.
Why do universities proud of their rankings despite their differences from one classification to the other?
There is no classification under which all universities are placed as each university offers diverse classifications with separate standards.
University rankings depend on a number of elements, including the number of students in universities. The more students university admit, the less ranking it holds.
The biggest Chinese university has 35 thousand students, however here in Egypt, 250 thousand students are enrolled in Cairo University alone and an equivalent amount in Alexandria.
Faculties of humanities need to translate research and publishing papers into the English language to boost the university’s ranking. Alexandria University has translated researches into English and they are available on the international platforms, visible for evaluation.
Is it more beneficial to attract expatriates or open campuses in their countries?
Some countries have economic challenges, and when they arrive in Egypt, they put financial burden on our governments, however, opening campuses in Africa for instance, can help boost mutual interests in various fields.
What is the difference between our educational system and the Canadian one?
As a cultural adviser to Canada, I can tell you, if we were to work harder, we will easily be able to witness a lot of progress in our country.
In the past, an Egyptian medical graduate was able to travel to England and work immediately, without requiring the approval of equivalency from British universities.
Nowadays, universities undergo a quality process, in order to ensure the quality of the educational system, starting with the evaluation of graduate students and ending up with assessing the professor’s performance.
In Alexandria University, up to 40 percent of the questions are Multiple Choice (MCQ). This system is expected to be generalized to all universities as it excludes human mistakes and helps speed up the release of results.
What do you think of brain drain?
Everything has positive and negative aspects. The emigration of highly trained and qualified graduates can benefit Egypt in many ways through attracting other Egyptian students to complete their postgraduate degrees abroad, as well as increasing the probability of securing joint research between domestic and international universities.
We ought to have a role in rehabilitating the appropriate climate for those minds when they return to Egypt and facilitate the continuity of relations between them and their hosting countries to keep pace with the latest developments in their field of interest.