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Every fourth adult in Egypt lacks reading and writing skills according to official information. Nowadays, school is compulsory for nine years and most children go at least the first six-year stage. In Cairo, there is the large Islamic university al-Azhar, founded in 988.

Just over one child of five goes to preschool from the age of four. The children start regular school at the age of six. About three out of four continue with the three-year continuation stage. Among those who end prematurely there are especially girls in the countryside. In parts of poor southern Egypt, only half of the children attend school.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Country facts of Egypt, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.

The primary school should in principle be free of charge, but during the first year of the 2000s, some fees have been introduced. Many schools are poorly maintained and there is a shortage of both teachers and teaching materials. In many places, schools are forced to teach in shifts, and there are up to 100 children on one teacher. Largest is the teacher shortage in the countryside. The teaching is so inadequate that over half of the children are also reported to receive private tuition outside the school, which poses a great financial strain for many parents.

Most children attend state schools, but there are also private alternatives and a growing number of Islamic schools.

Adult education is extensive, but the proportion of illiterate people is still high. At the same time, Egypt has a high proportion of well-educated citizens, compared to other Arab countries. However, many highly educated people find it difficult to find jobs that match their knowledge. There are a number of state and numerous private universities besides al-Azhar, which is considered the world’s second oldest university after Fès in Morocco. Nowadays, al-Azhar also has faculties with secular subjects and also accepts female students. At the same time, the university’s religious significance has increased (see Religion).

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Proportion of children starting primary school

97.0 percent (2017)

Number of pupils per teacher in primary school

24 (2017)

Reading and writing skills

75.1 percent (2013)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP

10.9 percent (2008)

Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget

10.9 percent (2008)



Russian protest against Copter’s leaders

December 26

The Russian Orthodox Church announces that it has cut ties with the head of the Coptic Church in Egypt. The reason is that the Coptic pope has taken a stand in a church dispute between Russia and Ukraine: Tawadros | II has recognized the Church of Ukraine as independent. The Church in Moscow emphasizes that it is the church leader, not the Coptic church as a community, the protest is directed at.

Sisi challenger released, after two years

December 22

Former Defense Secretary Sami Anan, who has been incarcerated for nearly two years, is released. He was arrested when he declared that he intended to challenge Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi by standing in the then presidential election (see January 23, 2018). According to the official election results, Sisi, who, according to repeated accusations from human rights organizations, uses mass arrests and torture against opponents and silences mass media, was re-elected with 97 percent of the vote.

Israeli gas to Egypt

December 16th

Israel’s Minister of Energy is giving gas signposts to Egypt from the Tamar and Leviathan fields. So far, Israel has bought gas from Egypt, but the Sinai lines have sometimes been sabotaged by jihadists . The Minister of Energy describes the new cooperation as the most important since the two countries made peace in the 1970s.

Regime critics convicted of tax violations

December 9

A businessman in the construction industry has tormented Egypt’s rulers by posting regime-critical videos on online forums, where they have been widely circulated. Now a criminal court in Cairo states that author Mohamed Ali is sentenced in his absence to five years in prison and fines for tax offenses. Ali lives in self-elected exile, and has stated, among other things, that he has not been paid for construction work commissioned by the regime. During the fall, his videos helped to trigger a protest wave in the streets and squares (see September 20). When the verdict against him fell did not appear.


More and more prosecution is security classified

November 27th

President Sisi has set up a “parallel justice system” to strike at critics and opponents, warns Amnesty. It consists of the Prosecutor’s Office for security cases, terrorist courts and police special forces. The number of cases where prosecution has been brought by the special prosecutors has risen from 529 in 2013 to 1,739 last year, Amnesty writes in a report.

Death penalty for designated terrorist leader

November 27th

Terrorized ex-officer Hisham Ashmawy is sentenced to death by hanging. Ashmawy, also known by the name of Abu Omar al-Muhajir, has been described as Egypt’s most hunted man (see October 8 and November 17). He first joined an armed group in Sinai, but must have left the group when the pronounced support for Islamic State (IS) in 2014. Instead, he formed an al-Qaeda- loyal group in Libya, where he was arrested in 2018 by warlord Khalifa Haftars forces (Haftar, who is trying to take power in Libya, is supported by the Egyptian regime).

Severe armed group punishment

November 17

A military court sentenced a Libyan man to death and and 32 people to life imprisonment for incidents in October 2017 when police stormed an arrest for an armed group in the desert southwest of Cairo. In the aftermath, it was stated that 16 police officers had been put to death and 15 detainees had either died or injured. The group’s members are referred to as terrorists and are held responsible for attacks, including against the army. In 2018, a few months after the council, the state launched an intensive hunt for jihadist groups both in Sinai and in desert areas in the southwest.

Prices of basic goods are lowered

November 16

Prices of staple goods such as cooking oil, sugar, rice and flour will be lowered on December 1, a government spokesman announced. The message follows a decision by the president in October that 1.8 million Egyptians should once again be granted subsidized goods. The government has also lowered the gasoline price slightly, following several price increases that have been implemented to satisfy the state’s international lenders. Earlier in the autumn, there were a number of protests against government policy (see September 2019). The protests were unusual as demonstrations are surrounded by bans and the regime usually brings in the hard gloves against those who dare to make demands.

Egypt rejects UN criticism

November 8

UN experts calling for extra-judicial executions criticize Egyptian authorities for the conditions that former President Muhammad Mursi was subjected to for several years in prison. Mursi passed away this summer (see June 17). According to UN Reporter Agnès Callamard and other experts, the treatment that took place in the prison, including long-term isolation and inadequate care for diabetes and high blood pressure, can almost be considered a state-sanctioned murder. Egypt rejects the criticism.


Carrot from the president: privatizations

October 31st

When President Sisi inaugurates two chemical plants outside Cairo that are part of the military’s large business empire, which is notorious for giving citizens minimal transparency, he understands that it may be relevant to list some army-owned companies. Other state-owned companies may also be privatized in whole or in part, says the president, whose comments are broadcast on TV. He claims that the private sector has not been disadvantaged by the army’s heavy role in the economy. Large state buildings are among those increasingly questioned by regime critics who consider them boastful projects and waste. Already in 2018, the government talked about privatizing more than 20 state-owned companies, but the privatizations have not been implemented.

UN criticism of the regime

October 18

The UN strongly criticizes Egypt’s ruling for the crackdown on democracy activists. Among the recently imprisoned are well-known people as the founders of a youth movement that had a major impact during the Arab Spring of 2011: blogger Esraa Abdel Fattah and journalist Alaa Abdel Fattah. The journalist and his lawyer are accused of belonging and supporting a terrorist group. The UN calls on Egypt to respect freedom of expression and opinion, and also calls for an investigation into allegations that the arrested have been subjected to torture.


Wave of arrest

September 30th

Human rights organizations say that around 2,000 people have been arrested in recent days, including a former leader of the Liberal Party al- Dustur , a trade union veteran and a couple of established political scientists who dared to criticize President Sisi . Among those who have tried to get the protests in motion, there is a businessman in exile, who criticizes the president through notable videos on the internet. The regime has met with police action, but also bused Sisian supporters to support the president. Human Rights Watch urges Western countries to freeze their military support for Egypt until the regime’s abuses cease.

Protests against the President

September 20

Protesters gather in Cairo, Suez and other cities, among others, to demand the departure of the president. Such protests are unusual, and prohibited by law since 2013, but clashes between protesters and police take place not only on the Friday when the demonstrations begin, but also the day after. Two days later, human rights organizations state that 365 people have been arrested.


Counter-terrorism strike in Sinai

August 19th

Eleven armed men have been killed in gunfire with security forces in northern Sinai, the Ministry of the Interior said. Efforts against terrorist-designated groups in Sinai have been going on for a year and a half. According to a compilation based on statements from the defense force, about 650 suspected terrorists and 45 soldiers have been killed in the meantime. There are no independent sources, nor any sure information on how many police officers have been killed.

Purpose of terror behind crash with explosive

August 4th

A car that is speeding towards oncoming traffic outside a cancer hospital in Cairo collides with three other cars. Heavy explosions are triggered, and authorities later state that the car was loaded with explosives that would be used for terrorist purposes. About 20 people lose their lives, others are severely injured. Nearby buildings are evacuated and approximately 80 patients must be relocated to other hospitals. Police suspect a militant group called Hasm (Harakat Sawa’d Misr) and three days later report that 17 members of Hasm were shot dead in operations in Cairo and al-Fayyum. The group is believed to sympathize with the Muslim Brotherhood and has taken on several acts since 2016.


More Egyptians below poverty line

July 30

Nearly one-third of Egyptians (32.5 percent) live below the poverty line. This is a sharp increase compared to 2015, writes the newspaper al-Ahram, which is leaning towards official statistics. The poverty line is used to measure that you have no more than the equivalent of $ 1.4 a day to live on (it equals just over SEK 13). From 2015 to 2017–2018, the number of people with lower income increased by 27.8 percent.

Loan packages from the IMF are completed

July 24

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) provides a clear sign for the payment of $ 2 billion to Egypt. This is the final step in a three-year loan program. A total of $ 12 billion in loans has been disbursed in accordance with an agreement from 2016. In order to receive the loans, the Egyptian government has committed itself to reducing government spending in the form of subsidies on important goods and services. Electricity prices were raised most recently in May and the price of fuel was increased in July.

Mild teams get criticism

July 15

Parliament adopts amendments to a law that, according to individual organizations (NGOs), circumscribes their activities; Among other things, the law limits associations’ ability to receive money without the government’s approval. However, ten Egyptian organizations warn that the law will remain strict, even if some harsh regulations are mitigated. It includes, among other things, diffuse wording about what should be considered prohibited. As the law is changed, imprisonment is abolished for those who violate it, but very high fines can be imposed.

Palestinian activist arrested in Cairo

July 5

Egyptian authorities seize the son of a prominent Palestinian politician, Nabil Shaath, who was one of the negotiators behind the 1990 Oslo agreement between the PLO and Israel. Shaath’s French daughter-in-law is deported to France. Ramy Shaath has been living in Cairo since the 1970s, has Egyptian citizenship and leads an organization that advocates boycotting Israel. According to the family, which first released the arrest in mid-August after unsuccessful attempts to get him released, authorities have linked the capture of Shaath to efforts against the Muslim Brotherhood (see June 25.) In April 2020, Ramy Shaath is placed on a list of Egyptian people the state designates as terrorists.


Raids, coup charges and arrests

June 25

The raids are conducted on 19 companies in major cities accused of links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Large sums of money are seized and the authorities claim that the companies have been used to finance disruptive activities. At least eight people have been arrested, including corporate leaders, journalists and Zyad el-Elaimy, former Socialist MP who also participated in the Arab Spring 2011 protests against the then dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Religion on retreat in North Africa

June 24th

About a tenth of Egyptians are not believers, according to a recent poll in which more and more Arabs describe themselves as non-religious. The interview survey was conducted for the BBC 2018–2019 by the research network Arab Barometer, which is based at the University of Princeton. More than 25,000 interviewees in ten countries and in the Palestinian territories were asked. On average, the share of non-religious since 2013 has increased from 8 to 13 percent. It is mainly in Tunisia and Libya that people respond that they are not believers, but religious beliefs have weakened in all Arab countries of the Mediterranean.

Imprisoned president dies quickly

17th of June

Former President Muhammad Mursi collapses in connection with a trial and is pronounced dead in hospital. Islamist Mursi became Egypt’s first elected president in 2012, but in 2013 he was dismissed by the military, among other things, for having destroyed the country’s economy. Since then, Mursi has been imprisoned, isolated for a long time, and sentenced to a variety of charges, even to the death penalty. Human rights organizations have criticized how he was treated and are now demanding an independent investigation into the death, which, according to authorities, was due to a heart attack.

Long sentences at mass trial

June 12

A military court sentenced nearly 300 people to prison sentences. Security sources claim that the defendants have been included in 22 terror cells. 32 people are sentenced to life, which in practice corresponds to 25 years in Egypt. Among those convicted are some who are accused of trying to attack President Sisi in 2014. Others are alleged to have been involved in the murders of three judges in North Sinai in 2015.

Sisi strengthens its grip on the judiciary

June 11

Approves legislative changes that give President Sisi greater power over the judiciary; He is given the power to appoint a prosecutor and the chairman of the court in, among other things, the Constitutional Court. The President shall choose from candidates nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council and the courts. In the past, the institutions chose their bosses themselves, although the president would formally approve the appointments. During the summer, Sisi makes several appointments in accordance with the new rules.


Severe abuses in North Sinai

June 28

Both government forces and militant groups in Sinai are guilty of human rights violations, according to Human Rights Watch . North Sinai has been canceled by the government as a military area, making it difficult to report independently, but HRW has collected data on murders, kidnappings and torture. Young people, some as young as twelve, have been arrested and kept locked up in secret prisons for up to a month.

Deep sea cable to Europe is planned

May 23

Egypt has signed an agreement with a Cyprus-based company to build an underwater cable for electricity export to Europe, the company says. The largest depth at which the cable is to be laid is 3,000 meters and the project is valued at two billion euros. During the past year, natural gas has begun to be extracted from four new Egyptian fields and production already covers the domestic need. The goal is to export both liquefied natural gas and electricity. Egypt hopes that natural gas from Cyprus and Israel will pass on the energy plants being built along Egypt’s coast and make them more profitable (see also September 19, 2018).

Death penalty for acts against churches

May 13th

Two people are sentenced to death for an attack on a church in Cairo 2017 (see April 9, 2017 and May 21, 2017). Two others are sentenced to life. The Jihadi movement IS took on the deed, which required ten lives.


The fraternity is squeezed from several directions

April 30th

Several wealthy businessmen with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood are sentenced to life imprisonment on terror charges. Among those convicted are Hassan Malek, who built a business empire around electronics and furniture, and the owner of a supermarket chain. From the US comes the message that the White House is planning to make the Egyptian president want and terror class the Muslim Brotherhood. US Middle East experts and Pentagon defense headquarters are reported to be against President Trump’s plans.

Death penalty for murder of bishop

April 24

A court in Damanhur confirms that two former monks in the Coptic church have been sentenced to death for murdering a bishop. The bishop was found dead in July in one of the old monasteries located in the desert northwest of Cairo (see August 11, 2018). The death sentences fell in February and have subsequently been examined by the Egyptian Grand Duke, which is a rule when the death penalty is sentenced, but they can still be appealed. After the murder, Coptic church leader Tawadros decided among other things that the monasteries would not receive new novices in a year.

Many abstained from increasing the president’s power

April 23

President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi has, as planned, completely extended his mandate to 2024 and can then stand for a new six-year term. According to the electoral authority, nearly 89 percent of those who went to the polls approved the constitutional changes, which also gives the military more power. But only 44 percent of those entitled to vote are said to have participated in the referendum.

Pasta package for the voter

April 22

The referendum on amendments to the constitution ends. President Sisi’s mandate is extended according to the proposals, while at the same time expanding his own and the military’s power. At the polling stations, reporters see supporters of Sisi distributing boxes of basic foods such as rice, pasta and cooking oil to those who vote. No campaigns, on the other hand, have not been given much room to convey their message.

Sisi one step closer to extended power

April 16

Parliament voted in favor of constitutional amendments that would allow the President to continue to govern until 2030 (see February 14). The changes also give the president more power over the judiciary and strengthen the military’s influence – which is already large and has grown under President Sisi’s rule. A referendum on constitutional amendments will be held April 20-22.


Monitoring after prison for protest leaders

March 29th

The blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah is free after five years in prison – but it is reported that he will be under surveillance for the next five years. He emerged as a protest leader during the Arab Spring of 2011 when Hosni Mubarak was forced out of power by extensive demonstrations. In 2013, he was arrested after protesting against the generals who ruled Egypt after Mubarak.

Protest photographer gets release

4th of March

An award-winning photojournalist known as Shawkan is released from prison after six years. The photographer, named Mahmud Abu Zayd, was arrested in 2013 when he documented bloody clashes between security forces and supporters of deposed Islamist President Muhammad Mursi (see August 2013 and July 16, 2018). Shawkan will still be supervised for five years, with daytime release and overnight stay with the police, but he says he will resume his work.

Religious leaders pay homage to monogamy

March 1st

Ahmad al-Tayyib, the foremost imam at the Sunni Muslim world’s leading educational institution al-Azhar in Cairo, winds up in a blast after a statement about polygamy. He points out that the husband’s right to have up to four wives at the same time can cause injustice to women and children. The Imam does not ask for a ban on polygamy, but he emphasizes monogamy as the ideal and relies on Koranord that several wives require complete equal treatment. The argument that no human being can be so fair is common when polygamy is discussed in the Muslim world, but it is only in a few countries that authorities explicitly prohibit the custom.


Train tragedy triggers safety debate

February 27th

A locomotive crashes into a block at Cairo’s central station. A fuel tank explodes, fire breaks out and over 20 people lose their lives. It is unclear why the tragedy is occurring, but it sheds light on the safety situation in the railways, especially the maintenance of railways and trains. Transport Minister Hisham Arafat resigns. When replaced, President Sisi follows his habit of appointing a general, in this case a former chief of the country’s engineering troops who has participated in major state infrastructure projects.

Summit under troublesome circumstances

February 24th

At the Sharm el-Sheikh resort, President Sisi hosts a summit between Arab leaders and heads of state and government from EU countries. Since Sisi, without obedience to demands for democracy, is pushing for legislative changes that anchor him in power (see February 14), the meeting is a bit embarrassing for EU leaders. But Sisi points out that EU countries and Arab states have common interests, among other things, regarding migrant flows and the fight against terrorism. In a statement when the two-day meeting ends, cooperation is emphasized.

Nine hung for lawyer murder

February 20th

Nine men are executed by hanging. They have been convicted of the murder of state prosecutor Hisham Barakat 2015, which was carried out with a car bomb. According to Amnesty International , the men did not receive a fair trial, and they accused the authorities themselves of pushing recognition through torture. So far this year, 15 death sentences have been enforced (see February 13). Turkish President Erdoğan describes in the TV executions as unacceptable. Ever since Islamist President Muhammad Mursi was forced out of power in 2013, Erdoğan belongs to the Sisir regime’s sharpest critics. Erdoğan, who himself holds thousands of dissenters imprisoned, urges Egypt to release members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A change of constitution may extend Sisi’s rule

February 14th

Approves, in principle, that the constitution is amended so that Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi can remain in the post of president after 2022, when his second term expires; His supporters also want the term of office to be extended to six years. The proposals must be considered by the Law Committee before Parliament can make a decisive vote, within 60 days. A few parliamentarians and a number of human rights organizations have objected to the amendments, which, according to them, open up for the president to remain alive.

Close between executions

February 13

Human rights organizations are raising alarms that Egypt is executing more death sentences than before. According to Amnesty International , six executions have been carried out over the past two weeks. MR activists point out that the trials against murder and terrorists – which led to many death sentences – show major shortcomings.

New health insurance should provide the poorest care

February 5

Finance Minister Mohamed Maait promises that Egypt’s poorest will receive health care costs paid through a new health insurance system, which will be expanded until 2033. The system will be financed through several sources: taxes, patient fees, employer contributions, other fees and donations. Tobacco and vehicle taxes may be used, as well as highway tariffs.


Famous tomb chamber cared for

January 31

Tourists, moisture and dust. The threats are many against the tombs of Pharaonic times in Luxor. Preservation work has now been completed in the most famous of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, the one belonging to Pharaoh Tutankhamon. The work has been carried out in collaboration with American archaeologists and microbiologists, who have in particular examined how much damage fungal infestation has caused. Exhaling air from large crowds of visitors can ruin murals in the underground burial chambers.

The Monetary Fund praises reforms

January 25

It has been eight years since the start of the campaign against Hosni Mubarak, which forced the president out of power. The IMF is now providing a two-billion dollar payout for Egypt. The loan package settlement was concluded in 2016, and with this payment the state will have lifted 10 of the promised $ 12 billion. The reforms Egypt’s current government has implemented are praised by the IMF, which emphasizes that growth has accelerated and that unemployment is at its lowest level since 2011.

Regional gas forum is formed

January 14

Seven countries in the eastern Mediterranean agree to establish regional cooperation on gas extraction, with the Cairo office. Those behind the Eastern Mediterranean gas forum, which will be the organization’s name, are Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Natural gas has been found in several places in the eastern Mediterranean in recent years and some countries already have bilateral extraction agreements (see September 19, 2018).

15 years for protest leaders from the Arab Spring

January 9

Ahmed Douma, a democracy activist and co-founder of the April 6 movement, is sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined. A sentence of 25 years in prison has been reduced since he was granted a new trial. This judgment can also be appealed. Douma was the leader in 2011 during the Arab Spring protests against then-President Mubarak. Eight years later, the current state leadership is clearly undemocratic. Several activists from 2011 are imprisoned, as is the leadership of the Islamic Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood. On the other hand, people connected to Mubarak, who were forced out of power, have largely been acquitted of criminal charges.

Symbolic inauguration of new shrines

January 6

In connection with the Coptic Christmas celebration, a newly built cathedral with space for just over 8,000 visitors is opened. President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi attends the inauguration. The day before, a police officer lost his life when a bomb intended for copter was rendered harmless. Sisi also inaugurates the great al-Fattah al-Alim mosque. Both buildings are part of the efforts to move a new administrative capital to Madinat Nasr (“Segerstaden”) a few miles east of central Cairo.

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