Saturday, September 6, 2008

Who are your students?

It is kind of strange that I would post on this topic tonight, the evening before I begin teaching. But it also feels apt since this kind of statistical breakdown, as fascinating as it was to learn during the orientation, will mean absolutely nothing as of 10am tomorrow when I meet my students. All the same, it provides one answer (of many) to perhaps the most common question I have gotten since I began telling folks in the US that I will be teaching here.

Here is a rough breakdown, provided by an assistant Provost during orientation:
  • 5,500 full-time enrolled students
  • 4,200 are undergraduates
  • 85% of the undergrads are Egyptian
  • 10% of the undergrads are from the region (North Africa/Middle East)
  • 5% other international students
  • 1,000 graduate students
  • 400-500 non-degree students enroll each year (mostly study abroad)
The study abroad students tend to concentrate themselves in a few departments—history, political science, Arabic and Islamic Civilizations. For Egyptian students, the most popular majors are in business and engineering.

Of the undergraduates, most of the Egyptians have some sort of international diploma from one of Cairo’s private schools. Admission to college in Egypt is by exam, with more than 95% attending public universities. The exam (much like the SATs in the US) heavily favors private school students (who are also relatively well-to-do financially). The assistant Provost who gave us these statistics pointed out that the school generally follows the national exam protocols in its admission process and claimed (unconvincingly to my mind) that it is the Egyptian testing system, not our school, that favors the elites (through the secondary school system).

The tuition here is $18,000; the median income in Cairo is $4,000. The university does provide financial assistance to those students who can’t afford the tuition. (I think the number is relatively small since most of them seem to be graduates of secondary schools whose tuition sometimes exceeds ours.) There is a new outreach program that provides scholarships to students from rural areas outside of Cairo. In terms of demographics, our graduate students differ from undergraduates. Most of them are graduates of the public university system.

My department, English and Comparative Literature, has 50 majors--30 undergraduates and 20 graduate students. I look forward to meeting them tomorrow.


Hussain said...


I was reading you blog and was wondering if maybe you could help me out. My family is planning on moving to Egypt, and I really dont want to, but I was wondering what do you really think of AUC? Im a sophomore at AUK, the American University of Kuwait, majoring in Graphic Design, but i would be majoring in Art, Art History at AUC. Also is AUC hard to get into? Im like really worried about the atmosphere and the students there. Im half American half Palestinian and speak arabic fluently. I am very worried about fitting in and being happy with the rest of the student body.
Thanks so much!

irad said...

Dear Nad,
Thank you for your posting. Since I have only taught at AUC for one week, I can't comment with much authority. Generally speaking, admission is quite competitive. In terms of the atmosphere and students, there are people from everywhere, particularly the Arab diaspora, so there are Palestinians who grew up in Europe and Egyptians who were born in the US and Lebanese who went to high school in the UAE. In that sense, I think you (or anyone) would find the diversity and cosmopolitanism quite enriching. While the official language of the university is English, it is generally speaking a bilingual environment.

Good luck!

Hussain said...

Thank you so much for you reply. I really need all the advice I can get. I honestly do not want to move or change colleges at this point, since I would have to change majors. But I wish you the best of luck and if I do have to move to Egypt I'll be sure to drop by your office if I go to AUC!

Good luck!