CAIRO – The United States and Egypt announced a multi-million dollar higher education initiative at a long-delayed launch event Sunday, marking a milestone for educational ties between the two nations and expanding academic opportunities for Egyptian students to study at home and abroad.
The $250-million effort, which will extend over the next several years, involves a slew of scholarships, exchange opportunities and institutional partnerships with the aim of developing Egypt’s economy.
“You may wonder why the United States is investing so much in new scholarships to Egyptian students,” said Robert Stephen Beecroft, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, at the event, which was held at the American University in Cairo’s campus on Tahrir Square. “One reason is that Egypt’s future as a secure, prosperous, democratic country is critical to the stability of this vitally important region.”
Through the program, the U.S. government will provide about 1,900 Egyptian students with scholarships and exchange opportunities. That number includes 100 scholarships for women to attend M.B.A. programs in the United States and 60 scholarships for women to enroll in undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs at U.S. institutions.
A total of 550 Egyptian women and men will be given local scholarships to study in-demand disciplines at Egyptian universities, 50 students will receive Fulbright gradate scholarships to study in the U.S. and 1,000 Egyptian students and professionals will participate in study abroad programs or exchanges.
Additionally, the program will funnel millions of dollars in up to 20 partnerships between American and Egyptian higher-education institutions and businesses, seeking to increase joint research, knowledge exchange and shared-degree programs. The partnerships also seek to help Egyptian universities be more competitive on a global scale and will assist Egyptian educational authorities in cultivating a plan for reforms in higher education.
“In today’s world, Egypt’s future, like that of every other country, depends on the education of its youth,” Beecroft said Sunday. “So, the future of Egypt’s youth, and the choices Egypt makes preparing them for jobs, responsibility, global competition are important to the American people and to all those who wish Egypt well.”
The United States has a long history of supporting economic and educational development in Egypt, although that aid is often met by Egyptian citizens with a great deal of suspicion. Since 1975, the United States Agency for International Development has provided more than $30 billion in assistance to Egypt. Late last month, U.S. President Barack Obama released military aid that had been suspended since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi two years ago.
Naglaa El-Ahwany, Egypt’s minister of international cooperation, said at Sunday’s event that the higher education initiative aims to develop Egyptians, give them experience and skills and create a workforce prepared to meet demands of the labor market. It also seeks to expand work opportunities for university graduates, to increase opportunities for students to receive a high-quality education and to enhance Egyptian higher education institutions through cooperation, she said.
“I wish all Egyptian student youth more success in taking our nation’s flag higher,” El-Ahwany said.
Egyptian student Doreen Abdel Fattah, 18, is already receiving support from the U.S. government for her studies. She attends the British University in Egypt on a LOTUS Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships and stipends for students to obtain undergraduate degrees at private Egyptian universities.
Abdel Fattah said she has greatly benefitted from the program, which helped her gain volunteering experience and leadership skills. “The scholarship program—not just the scholarship program but any program that is in partnership with the U.S.— reflects the relationship between the U.S. and Egypt,” she said