Study in Egypt
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.
For many international students, studying in Egypt is a chance to explore a culture very different to their own, and indeed unlike any other. There’s also the prospect of exploring 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 center that is Cairo itself.
Read on for more information about the country’s leading universities, student cities, and practical information on costs, visas, safety and more.
- Cairo is the capital and largest city.
- Official name is the ‘Arab Republic of Egypt’.
- Population: around 91.1 million people.
- Currency: Egyptian pound (100 piastres in a pound).
- International dialing code +20 and internet domain .eg
- Main exports are petroleum products and cotton.
- Area of 1 million sq km (more than four times the size of the UK)
- Borders with Sudan, Libya and Israel
- Coasts along the Mediterranean Sea to the north and Red Sea to the east
- Official language is Modern Standard Arabic, but English and French are also widely spoken.
- Weekend is taken on Friday and Saturday.
- Cairo was the first African city to have a metro (underground train) system.
- Became independent from the United Kingdom in 1922.
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Universities in Egypt
The government has identified higher education as a priority, and is enacting a series of programs designed to make universities in Egypt more internationally competitive. Egypt currently has 20 public universities (with about two million students) and 23 private universities (60,000 students). As well as five institutions featured in the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, Egypt has 15 representatives in the QS University Rankings: Arab Region 2016, including eight within the top 50.
The five top universities in Egypt are:
American University in Cairo
Ranked joint 345th in the world rankings and 5th in the Arab region, the American University in Cairo is a private research university which, as the name would suggest, conducts teaching in English. It offers programs in an American-style liberal arts approach and is home to Egypt’s largest English-language library collection. A total of 6,739 students are currently enrolled, hailing from 60 different countries. The American University in Cairo features in the QS World University Ranking by Subject 2016 in the top 100 for development studies, as well as the top 200 for modern languages.
Cairo University is ranked 501-550 in the world and 10th in the Arab region this year. One of Egypt’s oldest universities, it was founded in 1908, when it was known as the Egyptian University. Its present name is somewhat misleading, as the university’s main campus is actually located in Giza – around 20km southwest of Cairo. Cairo University appears in the rankings by subject eight times, with a position in the worldwide top 150 for pharmacy and pharmacology.
Ain Shams University
Ain Shams University, ranked 701+ in the world and 12th in the Arab region, is located in Cairo and was founded in 1950, making it the third-oldest of the universities in Egypt. It’s a large institution, teaching some 180,000 or so students across 15 faculties. Ain Shams has been rated three out five stars in the QS Stars university rating system, with a five-star rating for teaching, and also ranks within the top 400 universities in the world to study medicine.
Ranked 701+ in the world and 14th in the Arab region, Alexandria University was founded in 1938 as a branch campus of Cairo University, becoming a separate institution in 1942 and renamed ‘Alexandria University’ in 1952. It’s since expanded from seven to 22 faculties and is in the process of gaining a branch campus in Juba, Sudan. Like Ain Shams, it’s a large university, with around 152,300 students currently enrolled.
Although not featured in the overall QS World University Rankings, Mansoura University features at 30th place in the QS University Rankings: Arab Region this year. Founded in 1972, it’s located in the city of Mansoura, in the middle of the Nile Delta. The university is famed for its specialized medical centers, which include the largest nephrology center in Africa. It’s one of Egypt’s largest universities, with just under 100,000 students enrolled across 17 faculties.
Three more Egyptian universities feature in the top 50 of the QS University Rankings: Arab Region 2016. These are Assiut University (34th in the Arab region), Al Azhar University (ranked 701+ in the world and joint 35th in the Arab region) and Zagazig University (43rd in the Arab region).
Also close to Cairo but not featured within the world rankings 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. Germany’s prestigious Technische Universität Berlin has also recently established the El Gouna International School as a branch campus in Egypt.
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, 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.
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 favorite cafés, 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, one of the oldest in the world, and hosts the annual Cairo International Film Festival.
Cairo’s metropolitan area is the largest in the Arab region with around 20.4 million residents, and the city is sometimes called Maṣr by Egyptians, although its official Arabic name is al-Qāhirah, which literally means ‘the Defeater’.
If clubbing and late-night bars are important to you, then Alexandria is probably not your ideal student city. But if you’re willing to take life at 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 café culture, with friends meeting to enjoy a game of dominos, a cup of kahwa (coffee) or a mint tea. In terms of history, Alexandria competes even with Cairo. Founded by Alexander the Great, it was the site of the legendary Pharos or Lighthouse of Alexandria (one of the Seven Wonders of the World), and became a leading center for culture and philosophy in the ancient world. A pretty inspiring setting, especially for students of classical civilizations!
Applying to universities in Egypt
To apply to study in Egypt, you’ll need an American high school diploma or equivalent qualification, and to provide proof of English proficiency by taking the TOEFL or a similar exam, if you’re a non-native speaker studying in English.
You can find the exact admission requirements on the official website of the Egyptian university you’re applying to, but as an example, non-Egyptian applicants to the American University in Cairo must also submit:
- Photocopy of passport;
- Recent medical report showing your physical and mental capability of completing university-level work;
- A bank statement showing the applicant or sponsor has at least US$31,000 in credit to cover tuition fees and living costs, or proof that you’ve received a scholarship;
- Official transcript of secondary school qualifications;
- Proof of having completed at least 12 years of primary and secondary education;
- An essay of 300-500 words explaining how the applicant will benefit from education at AUC.
If accepted, students are required to show proof of fully comprehensive medical insurance.
Student visas for Egypt
To enter the country, a tourist visa can be obtained from your nearest Egyptian embassy. This is then upgraded to a student visa after you’ve entered Egypt – check with the embassy and your university for advice and assistance on this. Many universities will guide you through the process once you have paid your fees and fully enrolled. The visa application form should be available through your chosen institution.
You’ll typically need to demonstrate the following when you apply for your student visa:
- A confirmed place at an Egyptian university;
- Adequate funds in place to support yourself during your studies;
- You have registered with the local police station with seven days of arrival in Egypt;
- You have started your application within 30 days of arriving in Egypt.
Tuition fees and living costs
Tuition fees in Egypt are charged on a per-credit-hour basis. The total number of credit hours you need will vary depending on your course, but generally you’ll take 15-20 credit hours, which cost around US$500 each. As an example, at the American University in Cairo, undergraduate international students will pay between US$13,608-16,155 per year, depending on the number of credit hours they take.
Living costs are relatively low in Egypt, especially compared to Western study destinations. Living costs are 60% lower than in the United Kingdom, according to Numbeo. A one-bedroom apartment in a city center will cost around US$250. As mentioned earlier, haggling is key – and traditional street food is very affordable.
Safety in Egypt
The political situation in Egypt has been uncertain in recent years, following the 2011 anti-government protests that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year presidency. There is a high threat from terrorism and some areas which visitors are advised to avoid. Be vigilant and consult travel advice from authorities such as the British Foreign Office before making plans. You should also carry photo ID with you at all times in Egypt.