Prime Minister Hisham Qandil met with Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail on Monday to discuss the progress being made on the Zewail Science City since its inauguration in November 2011. The land upon which the centre is built has been disputed by the Nile University, which was gifted the same land back in 2000.
During the meeting the prime minister reiterated the government’s support for the project, adding that education and scientific research are the foundations of progress and development in Egypt. According to the state-run news agency MENA, government investment allocated towards scientific research in the 2012-2013 budget is expected to reach up to 0.7% of the Gross Domestic Product, equivalent to three-quarters of previous allocated budgets.
Nancy Mustafa, a Nile University student, said they would not be accepting the government position, and has plans to counter the decision: “We are planning something, but we cannot say what it is at this moment in time because we do not want them to be prepared,” Mustafa said, adding their plans will likely be unveiled sometime next week.
A statement released Tuesday by the Nile University Student Union criticised the excessive use of force used by Zewail supporters under the guise of law enforcement, while simultaneously ignoring court rulings which granted the university the land.
The statement demanded the government comply with three demands. The union demanded the implementation of the court ruling which granted the Nile University use of the land, and also demanded Nile University be recognised and ratified by the president as a civil university rather than a private one. Thirdly, the union demanded a new headquarters for the Zuweil Science City be established elsewhere, so that research projects are not compromised.
The conflict between the Nile University and the Zewail Science City has been ongoing for nearly two years, following the decision by former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and his Cabinet of Ministers to reassign land to the Zewail Science City.
Last Sunday the Nile University Student Union held a press conference in which they criticised the current Cabinet for not respecting court decisions. During the press conference the union handed out documents which allegedly proved the Nile University was the rightful owner of the land.
One of the documents presented was a copy of the Administrative Court ruling which cancelled the decision to allocate the disputed lands to the Zewail Science City. The court decision was made last November, but Nile university students and staff have yet to receive permission to enter the disputed campus.
Earlier this month Zewail Science City opened student enrolments for the 2013-2014 academic year, further complicating the situation. President Mohamed Morsy also formally recognised Zewail Science City last December, solidifying Ahmed Zewail’s claim on the land.