Opening its doors just last month, the Egyptian Chinese University is the newest higher education facility in Cairo. Hoping to redefine science and scientific research in Egypt, ECU adopts a Chinese approach to graduate a different type of student working not only toward an academic degree, but a career.
by Noha Mohammed
The Faculty of Engineering is open for this academic year, while the College of Pharmacy, Physiotherapy and Economy and International Trade will be launched next year, and some more specializations in the years after. The full plan of the university is now being constructed over an area of 16 feddans between Nasr City and New Cairo, including a hospital and a pharmacy factory. Karima Abd El Kareem, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, takes us inside the state-of-the-art university.
How does the Chinese University plan to address the need for science and scientific research in Egypt?
The productive family model is an innovation in China through which they have been able to involve society in raising economic productivity. The industrial field in China is not limited to industrial complexes, which means that social economic development becomes a comprehensive national activity with a direct economic benefit for the entire nation. Our plan in Egypt is to initiate the same with a productive university-led model, whereby the innovation and entrepreneurial and industrial centers at the university will support students in their projects to be able to implement them in their own villages and hometowns by creating networks of home-based production units. ECU’s graduates will be amongst the first class of highly educated Egyptians that study not only for a degree but who graduate as active researchers, innovators and project leaders in their communities.
The Chinese University in Egypt has a different approach from other universities, choosing to open up small campuses across numerous locations and governorates. What’s the reasoning behind this?
ECU has its first Engineering campus now in Gesr El Suez, Heliopolis, where the facility holds a number of advanced laboratories and workshop areas, as well as the research and innovation center. The main comprehensive campus will be in Nasr City and will include four faculties, a hospital and a pharmacy factory. The projects, research units and entrepreneurial models to be produced by the students will be emulated across Egypt for the purpose of establishing the societal economic model we talked about, which is based on the productive family unit, where you can outsource big chunks of your production lines to home-based networks, that become part of your model for production.
Are there plans for postgraduate research degrees and programs?
Yes, definitely it’s on the plan. Most importantly, however, is the fact that ECU graduates will not be looking for jobs. They are a different type of student, who is not only working for an academic degree but gaining a career entry point through this type of education. Many universities in the region have good facilities too, the investment in facilities is not the only key to creating a different type of education, but the investment in human capital through the model of education.
An obstacle facing science graduates is the limited job market. What needs to be done to fix this?
The job market is not made by design but is dictated by social needs and the country’s natural resources. One of the main advances needed in Egypt is utilizing technological innovations in renewable energy, which is one of the main specializations in the College of Engineering, and will help produce graduates who can develop this sector, for example. New jobs are needed, but you need two things: qualitative graduates who have the know-how and innovative minds to work for those new fields, in addition to exposure to the new models of implementing new technologies in society. These are the two main attributes that ECU students will gain through this model of education and thus we are helping reshape the job market to be better suited to the development needs of Egypt.
How does the Chinese University promote entrepreneurial thinking?
Amongst the centers at ECU is the Entrepreneurial Center that aims to support such initiatives and provide a network of incubators to help students in their startups, as well as ongoing project management support.
Will graduates of the Chinese University get a better chance of working for Chinese enterprises here in Egypt, in Africa or even in China?
That’s a highly viable opportunity of course, because connections with industry and Chinese businesses is one of the main advantages that the students at ECU will be exposed to, through visits to China, tours in research centers, factories, industrial complexes, as well as through the internship programs offered by the university.