CAIRO: Two NGOs have criticized as unconstitutional the decision to restrict the access of external students to universities.
Individuals who fail to achieve the grades necessary to be accepted as full time university students may register as external, or entesab students.
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) and The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights have lodged a legal challenge calling on the Administrative Court to quash the decision.
On Sept. 30, 2009 the Supreme Council for Universities (SCU) issued a decision canceling lectures for external students.
Speaking in an interview with state daily Al-Ahram, the minister of higher education justified the decision to cancel external students’ lectures on the grounds that it is necessary to combat the spread of the H1N1 flu amongst university students.
The minister added that external students would receive their lectures via programs broadcast on dedicated satellite channels.
AFTE and the Egyptian Center say in a press statement that exists no law limiting external students’ right to attend university lectures, or talk to their professors directly.
In a legal briefing challenging the legality of the SCU decision AFTE lawyer Ahmed Ezzat contends that it is paving the way for the abolition of the external student system and a plan to privatize universities.
Ezzat refers to a paper issued in February 2000 at the conclusion of the National Conference on Higher Education which he says “clearly proposes the abolition of the external student system with the aim of “easing pressure on university student numbers in light of the restricted resources dedicated to universities .
“The aim behind cancellation of lectures for 1.6 million external students.is not combating the H1N1 flu. Rather, these exceptional circumstances are being used to prepare for the abolition of the external student system, Ezzat says in the legal briefing.
“This is confirmed by the suggestion put forward by the SCU that external student lectures should be replaced by satellite broadcasts – the same suggestion made by the [2000 conference] paper.
According to the legal briefing, the SCU decision flouts both international human rights law standards and article 18 of the Egyptian Constitution because denying a certain section of students the right to attend lectures and reach professors is a violation of the right to education.