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Egypt has announced a series of initiatives intended to strengthen its scientific research and higher education sectors.

In the latest move, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak this week (3 July) approved a 15-year strategy for higher education whose aims include increasing the proportion of students who study at scientific institutions from 40 to 60 per cent.

Under the plans, Egypt will establish two private and 13 state universities this year. These will include universities specialising in engineering and in medical and pharmacological sciences.

Egypt also plans to build specialised international universities for technology and industry in cooperation with international partners. Discussions are already under way to establish universities in Egypt in collaboration with China and Japan.

The plans, drawn up by the Supreme Council of Universities, include improving staff-to-student ratios in science universities to one to 20.

They also call for the creation of foreign branches of Egyptian universities to promote the transfer of technologies to other Arabic, Islamic and African countries. In addition to its branch in Sudan, Cairo University is already considering plans to set up a new branch in Bahrain.

Egypt is also strengthening its scientific links with Europe. Last month (21 June), it agreed a science and technology action plan with the European Union (EU).

The plan, which will be adopted by the third quarter of 2006, focuses on increasing Egyptian researchers' awareness of opportunities to collaborate with European partners — such as through the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). 

It will assess the possibility of a Mediterranean Technology Platform to foster public-private partnerships between researchers, industry and policymakers in the region.

The EU said it would allocate 11 million euros (US$14 million) over four years for a new Euro-Mediterranean Partnership to support research and development in Egypt. This will twin small and medium-size enterprises with researchers at publicly-funded institutions.

Earlier last month (15 June), Egypt launched a US$17.4 million research fund that will focus on connecting researchers with industry to promote technology transfer.