UK university LSE to open branch in Cairo despite human rights abuses

The London School of Economics (LSE) has signed a deal with the Egyptian ambassador to open a branch of the university in the new administrative capital.

According to state-run media the establishment of the Egypt-based branch of the academic institution is part of the country’s 2030 vision to develop education.

In August the University of Hertfordshire launched a branch in Egypt, which will be closely followed by Coventry University, as a result of a push by the British government and the advocacy group Universities UK.

Partnerships between British education institutions in the UK and Egypt is highly controversial given that the torture and murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni, who was completing research at Cambridge University in the UK, remains unsolved.

In 2018 over 200 academics signed a letter opposing this partnership, saying that government officials and university managers seemed to “have forgotten” what happened to Regeni and accused them of “masking human rights abuses in order to make short-term profits in the global education ‘market’.”

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In early 2016 Regeni’s body was found dumped by the side of the road in Egypt showing clear signs of torture. Despite international condemnation the Egyptian government has repeatedly delayed investigations into his death.

On its part the British government was accused of inaction and putting business interests above human rights. After a 100,000-strong petition demanding government intervention, the British government eventually said it was “appalled” by the murder.

The letter signed by the academics questioned “the wisdom and legitimacy of this move to do business as usual with an authoritarian regime that systematically attacks research, education and academic freedom.”

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Academics in Egypt have been asked to get security approval before travelling and must gain approval from the Foreign Ministry to organise international conferences.

Five female staff members and 530 female students have been dismissed from universities since the July 2013 coup, according to the international rights group We Record.

The pursuit against academics in Egypt is part of a wide-scale campaign against any opposition or perceived opponents to the current regime. It is estimated that there are 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt. Under the current regime an unprecedented number have died from torture, medical neglect, or have been sentenced to death.