Costs and benefits of German education in Egypt
Cairo - Three years ago, Sultan Mohamed made a “transforming” visit to Germany. The trip was short but it was an eye-opener for the then 18-year-old.
“It’s a great industrial nation,” Mohamed said. “It’s a country that managed to make progress in all fields.”
It is then no wonder why Mohamed enrolled at the German University in Cairo (GUC) after graduating from high school in 2012.
Around 10,000 students are in GUC’s undergraduate studies and 500 others are in post-graduate programmes. The university opened in 2003, working in conjunction with German institutions in Ulm and Stuttgart.
GUC was the first integrated German university outside its native home to offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate programmes. Degrees are offered in 71 specialty fields — 31 undergraduate and 40 postgraduate.
The eastern Cairo GUC campus occupies 577,000 square metres and includes a major recreation area and an industrial park.
On its website, the university prides itself on integrating academia, research and industry together. This was one reason why Mohamed decided to enroll three years ago.
A business administration major, Mohamed said study and practice were so intertwined in university courses, making the programme “useful” for life in the future.
“Study in the GUC is very elevated,” he said. “It is better than any other university in this country.”
Abdel Hafiz Tayel, director of the Egyptian Centre for Education Rights, does not share such enthusiasm. In an interview with The Arab Weekly, He insisted that non- Egyptian universities were gaining ground in Egypt simply because state-offered education is “bad”.
“Otherwise, these universities will never thrive in a country like Egypt,” he maintained.
“We must admit that our education is very bad and thus opens the door for the foreign universities to come in.”
Besides GUC, there is the American University in Cairo (AUC), which has operated in Egypt for several years. There are also British, French and Russian universities.
For Tayel, these universities are tools for spreading the culture of their mother countries in Egypt.
“Many countries would be interested in spreading their culture in Egypt because it is the most populous and important country in the Middle East,” he said.
The university’s industrial park opened in 2007 with the aim of linking education and research. That same year, the university inaugurated a guest house in Ulm. Germany, to host researchers, academics and students in exchange programmes with sister universities.
In 2011, GUC opened an office in Berlin to promote international research and education activities. The office made it easier for researchers from Egypt and Germany to cooperate in the pharmaceutical, engineering and management fields.
In 2012, a Berlin campus was established to facilitate the transfer of not only German know-how and European technical knowledge.
Mohamed said he and his family struggle with GUC’s fees, even as the university identifies itself as a “non-profit”. He said he paid $6,875 in annual tuition.
“There’s also a 7% fee hike every year,” he said. “This is so expensive.”
Mohamed Essam, a freshman studying commerce, had the same complaint.
“Such fees are so expensive for many,” he said. “I’m so lucky that my parents consider my education a top priority.”
Essam and Mohamed both insisted that the benefits of studying at a German university far outweigh the negatives, however.
Many students interviewed said they had a high regard for German policies, especially the move to accept tens of thousands of migrants from Iraq and Syria, which compelled other European countries to be more open to immigrants.
They are also confident that when they graduate, they will find suitable jobs, despite the high unemployment in the country.
“It is generally not easy for graduates to find jobs,” Mohamed said. “GUC students have, however, a better chance because they are known to be quality graduates.”