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There are many reasons to study in Egypt, including well-respected universities, low living costs and the chance to immerse yourself in the country's unique fusion of African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures.
Egyptian capital Cairo is the only African entry in the QS Best Student Cities ranking in 2012 - so what makes Cairo such a great place to be a student?
A relatively low cost of living is certainly a major factor. Cairo has the highest score for ‘affordability’, with only Mexico City coming close in this respect.
But, while costs are an increasingly important issue for many students, there’s more to Egypt’s appeal as a destination for higher education – including five universities in the 2012/13 QS World University Rankings.
For many international students, studying in Egypt is also a chance to explore a culture very different to their own, and indeed unlike any other. Bridging north-east Africa and the Middle Eastern region, and with a Mediterranean coastline, Egypt offers a unique fusion of African, Arabic and Mediterranean cultures.
This is of course also the home of some of the world’s most renowned historic sites, including the Great Pyramids, the Temples of Karnak and the Valley of the Kings. Then there’s the appeal of cruises on the Nile, sunbathing by the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and the vibrant urban centre that is Cairo itself.
The government has identified higher education as priority, and is enacting a series of programs designed to make universities in Egypt more internationally competitive.
Egypt has 20 public universities (with about two million students) and 23 private universities (60,000 students). Five appear in the 2012/13 QS World University Rankings: the American University in Cairo, Cairo University, Al Azhar University, Ain Shams University and Alexandria University.
The first four of these are all in Cairo, and Germany’s prestigious Technische Universität Berlin has also announced plans for a branch campus in the capital.
Also close to Cairo is the British University in Egypt, located in El-Shorouk, about 50km from central Cairo. Like the American University in Cairo, it delivers all teaching in English.
Egypt is predominantly a conservative Islamic country, and this is reflected in its laws and social customs. This means that clothing should cover shoulders and legs, and public displays of affection should be avoided.
Pre-marital sex is illegal, as is homosexuality, and it’s also illegal to drink alcohol outside of a registered restaurant or bar.
However, student life in Egypt is not just a list of restrictions! For those who are able and willing to adapt to the local way of life, studying in Egypt can be an adventure you’ll never forget.
As a long-term visitor, you’ll learn how to haggle at the market to get the best price, find the best places to go for kebab, falafel or baklava, and (maybe) even get used to Cairo’s notoriously chaotic traffic.
Egypt is currently in the midst of significant political change, following the 2011 anti-government protests that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year presidency, and in some regions there may still be a threat of unrest and violence. Consult travel advice from authorities such as the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office before making plans.
Most visitors to Cairo describe the experience as rather overwhelming; with so many sights, sounds and smells to take in, the senses can be overloaded. But of course as a student, you’ll have the opportunity to move beyond this stage, making sense of the chaos to discover your own favourite cafes, markets, music venues, and views of the Nile.
Those who enjoy culture will soon discover the Cairo Opera House, where you can see opera, ballet and orchestra performances, but also jazz bands, modern dance companies and visiting performers from around the world. The city also has a thriving film industry, and hosts the annual Cairo International Film Festival.
See where Cairo ranks in this year's QS Best Student Cities >
If clubbing and late-night bars are important to you, then Alexandria is probably not your ideal student city. But for those willing to take a slower pace and simply enjoy soaking up the culture, history and sun, it may be worth a look, especially as it’s home to one of Egypt’s highest ranked universities.
Located in the north of Egypt, Alexandria is Egypt’s largest port, a growing industrial center, and very popular with tourists. Often called the ‘pearl of the Mediterranean’, in summer-time especially its beaches are filled with holidaymakers, from within Egypt and beyond.
Unsurprisingly, this coastal region is known for its excellent – and fresh – seafood. There’s also a strong cafe culture, with friends meeting to enjoy a game of dominos, cup of kahwa (coffee) or mint tea.
In terms of history, Alexandria competes even with Cairo. Founded by Alexander the Great, it was the site of the legendary Pharos lighthouse (one of the Seven Wonders of the World), and became a leading centre for culture and philosophy in the ancient world. A pretty inspirational setting, especially for students of classical civilizations!
At the American University in Cairo, applicants are required to have an American High School Diploma or equivalent qualification, and to provide proof of English proficiency by taking a TOEFL or similar exam.
Non-Egyptian applicants to the American University in Cairo must also submit:
If accepted, students are required to show proof of fully comprehensive medical insurance.
Similar requirements apply at the British University in Egypt, but students with lower levels of English proficiency can still be enrolled, by taking the university’s year-long foundation program, designed to boost English to the necessary standard.
To enter the country, a tourist visa can be obtained either from your nearest Egyptian embassy, or – depending on your nationality – at the airport when you arrive.
Once you’ve fully enrolled and paid your fees, the Egyptian university should guide you through the process to obtain an Egyptian student visa – but check this with the university before you arrive!
At the British University in Egypt, annual fees for non-Egyptian students in 2012/13 are (converted from Egyptian pounds):
There are additional fees for educational support and administration services, books and English reinforcement.
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