Dozens of lecturers and students recently held a protest at Cairo University against the public institution’s decision to expel 94 anti-government students.
The action by Egypt’s top institution follows the expulsion of 160 students from the University of Al-Azhar.
And last Tuesday the higher education minister said the government would not tolerate political or partisan activities on campuses in the coming academic year.
Cairo University, Egypt’s biggest, last month expelled 94 students accused of involvement in violent pro-Islamist protests that have rocked the institution during the past year.
It also suspended 55 students for one to two years for allegedly inciting riots or disrupting classes.
“No to student dismissals”, “Save the university”, read some placards carried by academics in solidarity with the expelled students.
Students who showed up for the rally shouted slogans against the university administration, which they accused of acting on government orders.
“The university expelled me because I dared to express an opinion that they didn’t like,” said one expelled student, who gave his name only as Mohamed.
“I was not involved in violence and the whole case is politically motivated.
”Safwat Hamed, an arts student who attended the rally to show solidarity with evicted colleagues, said: “The decision to expel the students should have been preceded by independent investigations.
The expulsions seem to have been taken on orders from security agencies.
”But officials at Cairo University denied the claim, saying the expulsions followed thorough investigations.
“Each expelled student has the right to challenge his dismissal in court,” said one official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Campus unrestSeveral universities were rocked by violent demonstrations in the months following the army’s toppling of Islamist former president Mohamed Morsi in July last year.
The unrest was the worst seen in the country’s higher education institutions in recent years.
The state-owned University of Al-Azhar, a stronghold of Islamist students, was the main institution hit.
The authorities blamed students sympathetic to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood for damaging several facilities on the campus.
At least eight Al-Azhar students were killed in clashes between anti-government students and the police in the post-Morsi unrest.
Earlier this year, the Al-Azhar administration asked for security forces to be permanently positioned on campus after violence mounted.
The university’s Vice-president Tawfik Nur Eddin said violence on campus and in dormitories had caused damage of more than EGP30 million (US$4.
He added that a total of 1,000 students suspected of involvement in ‘rioting and sabotage’ had been referred to disciplinary boards for inquiries.
“Of this number, 160 have been irreversibly expelled while 720 others have been suspended from attending classes for periods ranging from one to two years or a semester.
“The university council has called for police to be posted on the campus in order to secure the university and ensure the uninterrupted continuation of the education process.
”Higher education authorities have said the expelled students will have no right to attend other public or private universities in Egypt.
Egyptian media and Islamists meanwhile reported that Turkey, a key ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, has decided to allow expelled students from Egypt to attend its universities.
Hundreds of students, mainly dismissed from Al-Azhar University, will go to Turkey, said the independent newspaper Al Masry Al Youm.
“We don’t need Egyptian universities,” said Mariam, the daughter of detained Islamist leader Safwat Hegazi.
“It is better to have education in Turkey,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
There was no comment from the Turkish embassy in Cairo.
Government actionLast Tuesday the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, or ANHRI, denounced a statement by Minister of Higher Education Dr Al-Sayyed Abdel-Khaleq that the government would prevent any political agenda or partisan activity in universities in the coming academic year.
According to ANHRI, the minister made the statement during a meeting of the Higher Council for Education and Students’ Affairs at the Supreme Council of Universities, and stressed the maintenance of universities’ security.
“Such a statement is a form of undermining the students’ political participation and a clear violation of freedom of expression,” ANHRI said, calling on the minister to retract the statement and allow students the right to participate in the political process.