The formation of a British University in Egypt arose from a 1998 Memorandum of Cooperation between the UK and the Egyptian Governments. It was envisaged that such an institution would produce graduates of UK standards for key sectors of the Egyptian economy, particularly in the areas of engineering, computer science and business studies. In this interview, BUE President, Professor Ahmed Hamad, discusses the university’s proud links with the UK and reflects on how far the institution has come in its short 11-year history
Egypt has come a long way in domestic security. However, this is not the perception that many have abroad, who do not see Egypt as a secure destination.
The security situation is very clear now. We have many visitors from the UK here at our university, due to our partnership with three British universities. We have regular meetings with them and several British staffers. There are two to three high-level visits per year from each of the universities with whom we partner, and they visit us here in Egypt and see the stable situation. They spend a week here and meet the staff, students, administrators, and academics. The label of Egypt as a dangerous place is unjustified.
Describe your partnerships with British universities.
As I said, we have three of these partnerships: Loughborough, London South Bank, and Queen Mary University. We are the sole Egyptian university which bestows two certificates to graduates: one from the Egyptian authorities, and the second by our British partner, for both undergraduate and post-graduate degrees.
Our new faculty of law will give degrees accredited with London South Bank University, and we will open new faculties in the future as well, focusing on engineering and environmental studies. As you know, these are areas where Egypt and the world face major challenges, so we are proud to include them at our university.
At BUE, we make management decisions to work out long-term solutions for our staff. We try to keep our high-caliber professors and encourage them to say with us for the long term, and we make necessary arrangements to keep them comfortable. We are located outside Cairo, so we have a fleet of buses for the convenience of our staff and students to make the commute easier. This way we ensure we have the best students and staff come here and have easy arrangements. We therefore have a student and staff body that lives all throughout the Cairo metropolitan area.
BUE celebrated your tenth anniversary last year. What you have been able to do at BUE in just ten years is quite impressive, but as we know, today's universities commonly have their reputation for quality tied with their long history. How will you build your reputation as you are still a relatively nascent university?
BUE is focusing on its advances in all areas: educational methods, curricula, class sizes, facilities, assessing students' needs, and having strong, employable skills. As we now have had a few cohorts having graduated, we know that their professional performance will be reflective of our academic performance. What we are keen to build on is the reputation not only of the university itself, but on the profile of the graduate. BUE is a new player in this feel, but yes, this process will take years. However, I will say that I am very proud that many banks here in Egypt have told me already that BUE graduates are some of their most promising new employees.
How have you been able to acquire such a reputation in just ten years?
The key is just to follow the policy and how it is implemented. We have good partners from the UK. We started with Loughborough University, which has been selected as one of the top 10 British universities. We learned much from them on how to arrange the classes in the right way. It was not an easy task, but together we surmounted many obstacles. It has required much work and devotion from our team here.
Early on, we modeled our professional excellence on the standards for the British Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. We achieved this certification from the QAA, which was a meticulous task to meet all criteria, however I am happy to say that we did it. The QAA was later used nationwide here in Egypt for educational standards of excellence, so I am very proud that we were the pioneers in adopting these standards.
The British government has stated that education is the sector that they most feel that they could contribute to Egypt's development. In what way, do you feel, that the British could influence education here?
There have been many memoranda of understanding between British and Egyptian universities to have good collaboration.
You have been in this position as president of this university for more than two years now. What are your personal goals for leadership here?
I myself believe in the power of the students. We try to disseminate the philosophy of entrepreneurship and innovation culture. This is the key role for developing Egypt. It will not depend on the government; it will depend on our young people. We have very positive stories from our young graduates going into business, and some of them even starting their own. Across all disciplines in our university, we seek to instill these values.
Freedom of thinking is also a critical theme of my leadership here. Freedom of thinking not belonging to any particular ideology; prioritizing creativity. I got my PhD in France, and I see how I was able to benefit from having been exposed to the world and learning in a different society.
The satisfaction of our staff and students is also very important to my team and I. We have a questionnaire for both students and staff so that we can obtain their feedback on the university's administration. We use this improve our performance.
We take our growth very seriously here. That's why in these first ten years, no money has been returned to the shareholders of the university; it has all been invested to produce excellence. Shareholders however are still satisfied with the progress and reputation of BUE, and we have retained a positive relationship because they understand our drive to grow.
We have embarked in what we call the e-era. Digitized communication, rapid expansion, innovative growth. These are the changes not only of the world's society-at-large, but also what we would like to see here at the university. In our way forward, we want a solid commitment to the community. We believe in the strength of our young researchers and we want to provide incentives and encouragement for innovation and creativity.