NOVA Cairo is the result of a cooperation agreement established between NOVA University Lisbon (NOVA) and The Knowledge Hub Universities (TKH), to open a campus in Egypt, as TKH first EU-based University.
This initiative reflects an answer to the challenge posed by the Egyptian partners, contributing to a modern perspective on the internationalisation of higher education, and helping building a knowledge bridge between southern European countries and the African-Mediterranean nations, as a basis for development and closer cooperation.
From NOVA´s perspective, this initiative represents the archetype of its internationalisation strategy, based on three geostrategic areas. First, Europe. For obvious reasons (e.g. shared values, culture, history, and financing sources), NOVA positions itself as a European University. This perception is reinforced by NOVA´s presence in European-based networks, such as CESAER. Secondly, the South Atlantic. Portugal is the only European country with a historically and culturally significant presence on both sides of the South Atlantic, and NOVA reflects this with a quite active collaboration in both continents. This presence is complemented with the third geostrategic area, The Mediterranean. As European Nova reflects a southern positioning, sharing a focus and cultural proximity with the cultures of Northern Africa. This particular aspect is where the NOVA Cairo campus fits in as an innovation-driven approach to internationalisation. In the medium-long term, the success of the new Campus will certainly increase NOVA´s relevance within the dialogue between African countries and Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa, while simultaneously positioning NOVA (and other European Universities) as strategic partners for countries with interests in these geographies, as China.
NOVA Cairo should go into full operation by September 2022, with five undergraduate programmes being delivered in the areas of management, engineering and data science. The undergraduate programmes will be exactly the same as those offered in Lisbon at NOVA, and will be accredited by the Portuguese national accreditation board. After opening the campus, NOVA envisages introducing executive education programmes, complemented with offers at the Masters level.
NOVA´s presence in Egypt is not recent. In fact, NOVA has been active in the country, namely, through the strong partnership developed with the American University in Cairo.
Nevertheless, there are several reasons for establishing a campus in Egypt. The most obvious is related to the demographic reality of the country. Egypt is a country of 110 million inhabitants, of which nearly 40 million are less than 16 years old. There is an enormous need to provide education to the new generations, with the best possible education standards available in the region. However, there is an expectations-capability gap between offer and demand. And that creates an opportunity for the European Universities of Excellence. At the TKHub, the educational offer provided by NOVA will complement the one already provided by Coventry University (already established in TKH).
Furthermore, the Egyptian government is financing the national urban expansion plan, through the attribution of incentives to Egyptian multinational companies, particularly in the development of infrastructure and urban modernisation, including the setup of International campi. That increases engagement with strategic partners in the region that will level up the game.
Additionally, the possibility of a campus in Cairo fits in unique terms with three areas of strategic importance: Middle East, Mediterranean and Africa. The particularity of being a non-Portuguese-speaking location also acts as an advantage for NOVA, as it reinforces the international perception of NOVA as a young European University of reference outside classical markets.
Despite the non-negligible political risk, the stability of the agreement and the undeniable perception that there is an objective value to Egyptian society and clear commitment from NOVA´s side, create the conditions for a hopefully stable relationship in the long run.
NOVA´s commitment with sustainability may be perceived at different levels. Firstly, through the aggregation of several knowledge areas in the same campus, and several different universities in the same campus. NOVA took advantage of the opportunity to implement this new campus to generate an interface between management and technology. NOVA Cairo aims at providing a systemic and holistic approach to the global challenges, while considering the specific demands at local and regional levels.
Secondly, through a clear commitment to value creation to Egyptian society. The new campus is based on the exact same demanding standards that characterise NOVA´s recognised teaching methods. As a natural outcome, it is expected to have a positive impact in economic valorization of the regional market, leading to the country's economic and social development. For us, it is certainly a great honor to be part of this process, but also a significant responsibility. To provide solid knowledge, skills and competences that will have a positive contribution to the future tomorrow.
Thirdly, gender equality in access to education is a priority for NOVA. The new Campus will certainly have a positive contribution in this area.
Fourthly, NOVA will lead a demanding international recruitment process that will allow to bring 'on board' specialised faculty and technical staff, from Europe and the United States, but also talent from the Middle East. NOVA has already in place a model that will allow continuous training to ensure that all faculty will encompass the demanding criteria of Excellence in Education set up by NOVA, recognised by several accreditation and ranking procedures.
The hub where NOVA Campus will be installed is the result of an investment of over €130 million. The partnership developed did not stem from any effort to raise NOVA funds or resort to national or international structural funds, but rather a concrete commitment to the recognition and value of the NOVA brand internationally led by the Egyptian partner.
Under this win-win partnership, NOVA will offer programmes, award degrees and control the academic quality and its own brand, while TKH will cover all the Capital Expenditures (CapEx) and Operating Expenditures (OPEX) associated with the project, ensuring a close connection to the markets of the region.
João Amaro de Matos
NOVA University Lisbon