Striking students at the American University in Cairo (AUC) have won a historic victory limiting annual tuition fee hikes to 2.3 per cent.
The students ended their strike after reaching an agreement with the university administration, the terms of which were shared at what AUC President Lisa Anderson called a “historic” press conference at AUC’s downtown campus on Monday.
The deal to limit tuition fee hikes will be effective from the next academic year until 2016 and is a decrease from the original seven per cent cap that was in place.
The administration also claimed that it would work to make financial aid more accessible to its students. The provost and the AUC senate will also work to expand student representation and revisit methodology involved in student evaluations, and launch the new registration system.
Although the agreement represents a breakthrough for students who locked gates on AUC’s New Cairo campus, the administration made it known that it would pursue disciplinary actions towards those deemed to have gone too far. “As a community we recognise that there were many violations of university policy and violations of the trust within the community.
Much damage was done during this time to the fabric of our community,” said Anderson. She announced the formation of a special university tribunal with representatives from different segments of the AUC community to consider filed complaints against anyone who allegedly violated university policy. The tribunal will be officially announced on Thursday and will begin its work next week.
“We have agreed to strengthen communication and acknowledge the work done by everyone in the enhancement of the university, particularly the students,” said Anderson. “We agreed to establish a standing advisory committee of alumni, parents, and faculty to provide advice and counsel to the president on university operations, including governance reforms, budget cuts and community relations,” she added.
Anderson also pledged to improve financial transparency and work on creating solutions to maintain quality of education and “reduce reliance on tuition.”
AUC Student Union head Taher Moataz Belaa welcomed the agreement, saying it set a precedent for productive exchange and discussions between different members of the AUC community, especially with regards to student demands. “There were people who said it would be impossible for us to reach our demands,” he said. “I’d like to tell those people to think again.
You’re taking your rights now.” He also asserted that the students could have taken more during negotiations, but declined to do so, as they would have been at the expense of incoming students.
Towards the end of the press conference, a student strike leader who had been attempting to make his way to the front of the room, took the microphone and called for a moment of silence for Omar Mohsen, a student who had died in the football massacre in Port Said. He then proceeded to speak of the importance of unity, and antagonised the administration speaking of policies inherited from the “days of Mubarak.”
Belaa responded to the student by saying, “once we started to listen to other student factions, once we started to listen to other bodies in the university, this agreement was possible.” He also affirmed that regardless of people’s perception of the strikers’ methodology during the campus lockdown, similar incidents could be avoided in the future through better channels of communication.
Classes will resume at the New Cairo campus on Wednesday.