ASSIUT, EGYPT—Post-graduate studies at Egypt’s public universities suffer from difficulties in conducting research and are tainted by high incidences of plagiarism and corruption, including mild forms of extortion, students say.
Administrators respond that they are taking steps to prevent or put an end to the problems.
One student, Mohamed Hussein, who works in Kuwait and studies at Egypt’s Minya University, said he cannot meet one of his two supervisors without bringing gifts. “This is a clearly blackmail,” Hussein said. “Every time I come from Kuwait he asks me about his gifts.”
Other students say there are unethical practices when it comes to research.
Essam Mohammad, who recently got a master’s degree from Cairo University’s faculty of law, said he paid a librarian 500 Egyptian pounds (about $65) to do his research.
Other problems seem to be outside the students’ control. Nahed, who didn’t want her last name to be used, holds a master’s degree in economics and finance from Assiut University. She said students have limited access to proper research and face a dearth of serious discussions about research on campuses, limiting the quality of work that they can produce.
Few professors are available to supervise the dissertations of candidates for master’s degrees, particularly in some parts of the country, said Zaynab, a master’s researcher at Assiut University. “This is difficult especially for a girl who lives in Upper Egypt,” she said, noting that scientific journals are outdated and scarce.
Many of the troubles stem from the rapid expansion in the number of students, said Sarah Heraz, an instructor at Damanhur University. Ten years ago, each class had only four students, she said. Today, there are at least 80 students per class. As a result, supervisors don’t pay attention to the quality of students’ work, driving them to submit research papers that they buy instead of submitting original content, Heraz said.
Heraz said the problem could be minimized if supervisors discussed research with students and enforced proper penalties for buying or stealing papers.
Ahmed Abdo Geaes, vice president of post-graduate studies and research at Assiut University, said the situation there is unusual because the governorate is poor. The university is trying to make it easy for students who have few resources.
“We try to facilitate procedures for researchers, and that is why we have created a website for post-graduate applications, even for foreign students,” said Abdo.
Abdo said the university takes cases of research plagiarism seriously. “In case of any theft, we take necessary legal procedures to punish the student or even expel him/her from the university if proven guilty,” he said.
Egypt is ranked among the worst countries for plagiarism, according to Mahmoud Sakr, president of the Scientific Research Academy, the national foundation responsible for science and technology in Egypt. “The high rate of academic theft is attributed to the lack of experienced researchers and the republishing of papers with minimal amendments or even without any amendments, in addition to the absence of advanced programs to reveal stolen research papers.”
Sakr said a technical office and a national committee were formed to start and fund specialized training programs for researchers and post-graduate students. The programs are aimed at educating students and researchers about the ethics of scientific research and teaching them how to use proper citations. Software that can detect plagiarism has also been installed in all research institutes and research centers in universities, Sakr said.