News & Reports

Dual Degrees from Egypt and Italy Open New Horizons for Students

CAIRO—Architecture students from two universities in Egypt and Italy have just completed a joint academic programme that grants them dual degrees and, for the Egyptian students, opens new opportunities in Europe.

Under the programme, 23 students at Egypt’s Ain Shams University and Italy’s Università Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria earned a master’s degree from the Italian university and a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from Ain Shams.

Professors in the Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams started the cooperation by asking their Italian counterparts to host a study workshop. The project then turned into a joint degree programme for students from the two universities. (See a related article, “Report Explores How to Improve Arab-European Educational Exchanges.”)

Mohamed El-Fayoumi, a supervisor of the programme and an associate professor of engineering at Ain Shams, told Al-Fanar Media that benefits for Egyptian students included gaining “deeper skills and knowledge in some academic subjects, such as restoration, and the architectural theories and history studied by some European schools.”

Participating students gained “deeper skills and knowledge in some academic subjects, such as restoration, and the architectural theories and history studied by some European schools.

Mohamed El-Fayoumi  
An associate professor of engineering at Ain Shams

He added: “These subjects are not provided in the same depth in the curricula taught at Egyptian universities.”

Opportunities for Further Study

In addition to the dual degrees, El-Fayoumi said, the students also gain “recognition of their degrees by the European labour market, which makes these graduates qualified to work as engineers in any European country. They will also be entitled to apply for Ph.D. study at any European university.”

“The programme allows Egyptian students to study in two different academic environments,” said El-Fayoumi. “This contributes to refining their life and societal skills, and raises their awareness of the factors that affect their profession’s job opportunities in the two countries.”

The department of architecture at Ain Shams University informed students of the joint programme a year before its launch. Dozens applied to take advantage of the opportunities it provides, which include spending the last two years of study at Reggio Calabria, in southern Italy.

Studying in Europe is an exciting idea for many Egyptian students, but applicants had to pass a tough qualification process to participate. They underwent an oral test and an assessment of their last three years’ academic work. Ultimately, a joint committee of architecture faculty members from both universities selected the successful candidates.

Different Study Methods

dual degrees
Graduates of the dual-degree programme wear crowns of laurels, while officials of the two universities look on. (Photo: Ain Shams University)

Nourhan Mohammed Reda, 23, who was lucky enough to be chosen to participate, is one of the new graduates. “The methods of teaching subjects at the Italian university are completely different from those in Egypt,” she told Al-Fanar Media.

“For example, when they explain the history of architecture, which I studied in Egypt, Italian faculty members ask questions about the motives behind the sites you have chosen to study and the reason behind the use of certain restoration materials in these buildings’ urban designs.”

For her graduation project, Reda chose El Max, a highly populated area in Alexandria, and the possible location of an ancient Christian monastic complex known as Pempton. She said that Italian and Egyptian professors cooperated in guiding her designs and implementation stages.

“I was required to understand the environment’s various contexts before building or design, and to have a clear conception of each step.”

Nourhan Mohammed Reda  
An Egyptian student, commenting on Italian teaching methods

“I was required to understand the environment’s various contexts, before building or design, and to have a clear conception of each step,” she said.

Reda graduated with honours and now wants to apply to Italian universities to obtain a Ph.D. before returning to Egypt.

A Life-Changing Experience

Omar Ashraf, 24, another graduate of the programme, also commented on “the remarkable difference in curricula, teaching methods, and the reflection of that on students’ future plans.”

“All participants’ plans have been changed after travelling to Italy,” he said. “The experience changed us greatly, and encouraged many of us to apply for doctoral study at an Italian university.”

For Ashraf, one of the programme’s advantages was that it was free. “No one paid anything, except for accommodation fees and the cost of travel to Italy,” he said.

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Nevertheless, the experience was not all plain sailing. As well as having to learn Italian for daily life , Ashraf noted that Italian professors, unlike Egyptian ones, leave students to complete the required tasks on their own and without follow-up.


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