A heated debate that recently erupted over engineering education in Egypt raised the question of whether the country graduates too many engineers.
The controversy flared when Tarek Elnabarawy, director-general of Egypt’s Syndicate of Engineers, rejected the officially approved minimum scores for admission to engineering colleges this year.
However, Mohamed Ayman Ashour, the minister of higher education, met with Elnabarawy and other concerned parties last week and reached agreement on several proposals to defuse the dispute.
The crisis arose after the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research announced on August 25 the results of the coordination of admission requirements for engineering colleges and institutes.
The Syndicate’s Objections
The statement criticised decisions that would allow some private engineering colleges to admit students who got grades as low as 60 percent on high school exit exams.
Elnabarawy said that this policy “created problems for engineering education in Egypt and caused engineers to suffer because the number of graduates exceeds the needs of the labour market.”
“The syndicate had agreed with the minister of higher education on August 23 to cut down the numbers of graduates of engineering colleges and institutes, in order to avoid an unemployment crisis. However, the syndicate was surprised that this did not happen.”Tarek Elnabarawy , Director-general of Egypt’s Syndicate of Engineers
Problems include “the low quality of some graduates, high unemployment rates, and low wages for engineers, due to the increase in supply over demand,” the statement said.
In a separate statement to Al-Fanar Media, Elnabarawy said that “the syndicate had agreed with the minister of higher education on August 23 to cut down the numbers of graduates of engineering colleges and institutes, in order to avoid the unemployment crisis. However, the syndicate was surprised that this did not happen.”
(See a related article, “Job Prospects After Graduation Are Key in Egyptian Students’ Choice of a Major”.)
To strengthen its criticism, the syndicate mobilised its subsidiary unions in the governorates to issue similar statements, which Elnabarawy reposted on his Facebook page.
Two members of Parliament, namely Ihab Mansour and Maha Abdel-Nasser, joined the effort, submitting a request for a briefing and a parliamentary question to the minister of higher education and Egypt’s prime minister.
The moves emphasised the parties’ rejection of the low admission requirement, the failure to take into account the high unemployment rate among engineering graduates, and the labour market needs for engineers.
Al-Fanar Media could not get a comment from the spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education regarding these demands.
Agreement to Cut Student Numbers
In an effort to defuse the crisis, Ashour, who took office as minister of higher education in August, met on Thursday, September 1, with Elnabarawy and Muhammad Nasser, the syndicate’s treasurer; Mohamed Helmy El-Ghor, head of Egypt’s Council of Private Universities; and Mansour.
According to a statement posted on Elnabarawy’s Facebook page on Thursday evening, the meeting reached consensus on several points, most notably a commitment to meet the demands of the Engineers Syndicate to cut the number of new engineering students from its current range of 42,000 to 45,000 students annually to 25,000 this academic year.
Ashour “confirmed that the number of students admitted to engineering colleges and institutes will not exceed 25,000 students this year”, in compliance with a previous agreement with representatives of the Engineers Syndicate, the statement said.
The meeting also discussed the importance of technical education as an alternative high school path, and the need for graduates of technical schools to pass an equivalency test before they can enrol in engineering faculties. Other technical education graduates could join one of Egypt’s newly established public technological universities. Ashour also agreed to adopt this recommendation, the statement said.
(See a related article, “New Technology Universities to Boost Egypt’s Vocational Education”.)
A meeting with the higher education minister reached consensus on several points, including a commitment to meet the syndicate’s demands to cut the number of new engineering students from its current range of 42,000 to 45,000 students annually to 25,000 this academic year.
Ashour, who was previously a professor of architecture and dean of the Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams University, pledged to evaluate and discuss the current engineering institutes and the requirements to ensure quality education.
The syndicate’s statement also indicated that the meeting confirmed that syndicate and ministry officials would discuss the exams for practicing the profession and work on their application and approval.
Admissions at Private Universities
Elnabarawy stressed that the number of students admitted to private universities and institutes should not exceed the number specified by the ministry’s Engineering Education Committee.
He said some “aim to increase their financial revenues by increasing admitted students.”
Mansour, the Egyptian lawmaker, criticised the admission of students with grades as low as 60 percent into private engineering colleges and institutes.
“In April, I have received an official letter from the ministry stating that the Supreme Council of Universities had issued a decision that the minimum difference for admission requirements at private universities should not exceed 10 percent lower than that at public universities,” he told Al-Fanar Media. “This did not happen. Engineering institutes admitted new students whose grades ranged between 60 percent and 66 percent.”
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Statistics collected by the syndicate indicate that Egypt has one engineer for every 8.5 citizens, which greatly exceeds the estimated global ratio of one engineer for every 200 people.
Elnabarawy said the recent meetings’ outcomes were a “step on the way.” He said that the syndicate would continue its efforts to “achieve the demands of engineers and advance the profession.”