AUC Discusses the Opportunities and Challenges of The New Academic Year in a Virtual Roundtable Discussion

The American University in Cairo (AUC) held yesterday a virtual media roundtable discussion titled: Academic Year 2020-2021: Hybrid Model, New Opportunities, and Challenges. Speakers were AUC President Francis Ricciardone, AUC Counselor Ashraf Hatem, and AUC Provost Ehab Abdel-Rahman. The discussion highlighted AUC’s latest projects and initiatives, the University’s policies and procedures to help combat COVID-19, in addition to the recent collaborations with the Ministry of Higher Education and Egyptian universities.

 "We took many successful steps, whether last spring or this semester, to transition smoothly to online learning. We started this academic year with a new hybrid model of classes, where 93 percent of classes are online, and only 7 percent meet face to face," said Ricciardone.

Ricciardone added: "One of the most important issues that we have focused on this summer- an issue of great importance in higher education around the world- is raising awareness of sexual harassment. Recently we launched, #AUCSpeakUp a University-wide initiative to reinforce AUC's legacy of equity, inclusiveness, and safe campus. We have zero-tolerance for harassment, and AUC has a strict policy for sexual harassment, "Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy," that applies to allegations of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation that take place on AUC property or at University-sponsored events, regardless of their location.

At the discussion, Hatem said that AUC was one of the first universities in Egypt to adopt an online learning system once there was a threat of domestic spread of COVID-19. He said that despite the pandemic, the collaborations between AUC and Egyptian public universities have not stopped. "The university launched with the Ministry of Education and ten Egyptian universities the first Virtual Career Fair for Egyptian Universities UCCD 2020, which hosted 45 corporate participants who shared job and internship opportunities with around 4000 university students."

He also shed light on AUC's role in establishing 15 University Centers for Career Development at ten universities, funded by The United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Hatem added, "Under the supervision of the Ministry of Higher Education and in cooperation with Alexandria University, the University established a USAID-funded Center of Excellence for Water at Alexandria University to improve water resources management in Egypt.”

The University has also formed a strategic alliance with Ain Shams University and seeks to develop partnerships with the newly established Egyptian universities and is currently cooperating with the University of Alamein. Hatem added that through the Coalition of University Research Excellence in Egypt (CUREE), AUC works closely with the Egyptian-Japanese University for Science and Technology, Nile University, and Zewail City for Science and Technology.

Highlighting AUC's latest efforts to combat COVID-19, Hatem explained that the Office of Medical Services has been conducting contact tracing of all highly suspect or confirmed cases of COVID-19 through data collected using the University’s Wi-Fi. This system will help determine who else on campus may have been exposed. Hatem also said that AUC community members have health insurance that includes coverage for COVID-19 infection.

Regarding how AUC adapted during the pandemic, Abdel-Rahman said: "AUC moved to online education last March as one of the many preventive measures that the University took to help limit the spread of COVID-19. We began training faculty members on online learning teaching techniques before the pandemic, and we succeeded in such transition."

Abdel-Rahman added that this semester, the University worked on tackling online learning issues that occurred in the spring and summer semesters through conducting surveys with students.

"Early on, we encountered some issues, like some students' inability to obtain laptops or access the internet and we have managed to provide help to the students in need, to make sure they receive an educational experience similar to the one they receive on campus,” he added.

Despite the pandemic, Abdel-Rahman said: “We have succeeded in hiring about 30 new faculty members this academic year, 60 percent of whom are international faculty members. Also, the number of student applications this year increased by about 10 percent."

Abdel-Rahman added that this year, the University provided 26 full scholarships for the top Thanawyia Amma high school students. This year also, AUC offered scholarships to Egyptian public school students, in partnership with USAID. The Scholars Activity program, implemented and managed by AUC, provides scholarships to approximately 140 students in the academic year 2020 - 2021 to study not only at AUC, but also at several partner Egyptian public and private universities.

Concerning the University fees, Abdel-Rahman said that the tuition fees cover 60 to 70 percent of the actual cost of education, while the rest is covered by the University’s endowment and donors through grants and donations. He added: "the efficiency of the educational process in any university is a never-ending race, and we are always working on improving the quality of education at AUC."

 

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The American University in Cairo (AUC) was founded in 1919 and is major contributor to the social, political and cultural life of the Arab Region. It is a vital bridge between East and West, linking Egypt and the region to the world through scholarly research, partnerships with academic and research institutions, and study abroad programs. An independent, nonprofit, apolitical, non-sectarian and equal opportunity institution, AUC is fully accredited in Egypt and the United States.