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UK universities open Egypt branches despite academic repression 

University of Hertfordshire
UK university of Hertfordshire has launched a branch in Egypt [British Ambassador to Egypt/Twitter]

The University of Hertfordshire has become the latest British university to launch a branch in Egypt in what the British ambassador to Egypt has described as “a wonderful week” for British-Egyptian partnership.

Coventry University will also launch a branch in Egypt, Geoffrey Adams announced on Twitter:

The British government and the advocacy group Universities UK are working together to encourage partnerships between British education institutions in the UK and Egypt. In June last year 11 UK universities travelled to the North African country on a delegation.

Shortly afterwards over 200 academics signed a letter to the Guardian opposing this collaboration on the grounds that questions around the torture and murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni remained unanswered.

Regeni was in Egypt on a research trip for his PhD in early 2016, which he was completing at Cambridge University in the UK, when he went missing and was later found dumped by the side of the road bearing signs of torture.

Since then the Egyptian government has repeatedly been accused of delaying investigations into the killing, initially stating that he had died in a car crash and later that a criminal gang murdered him.

READ: Under the war on terror Egypt is ethnically cleansing the Sinai Bedouin

Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, said he was “tiring” waiting for the government to take Regeni’s case seriously. The British government said it was “appalled” by the murder, but only after a petition with 100,000 signatures demanded government intervention. At the time Britain continued to push for investment in Egypt.

Since Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s rise to power in 2014 the Egyptian government has placed tight regulations on academic freedoms within the country, including severe restrictions on university staff travelling abroad, according to the Egyptian NGO, Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression.

Image of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi [Egyptian President Office/Apaimages

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi [Egyptian President Office/Apaimages]

In its report, the Association of Freedom referred to a confidential letter from the Ministry of Higher Education to the presidents of Egyptian universities with instructions from the prime minister that to organise international conferences institutions must have the approval of the Foreign Ministry.

Several universities have asked staff members to obtain security permission before travelling abroad, a requirement in place under former President Hosni Mubarak cancelled in 2011.

Tanta University has made it obligatory for faculty members to gain approval from the Foreign Ministry before taking part in seminars, conferences and submitting research papers abroad.

Cairo University has stipulated that faculty members must pay 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($12,000) to travel abroad.

WATCH: Campaign highlights plight of Egypt detainees

The international rights group We Record has documented that 530 female students and five female staff members have been dismissed from university in Egypt since July 2013.

A 26-year-old teaching assistant at Tanta University and mother of a one-year-old, Manar Adel Abdel-Hamid Abu El-Naga was arrested in March this year along with her husband and have been forcibly disappeared until now. No information has been given about where they are being held or why they have been arrested.

Israa Khaled Mohamed Saeed, a 24-year-old engineering student, has been referred to the military judiciary and sentenced to 18 years in prison due to participation in anti-regime protests.

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