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[CAIRO] Egypt's cabinet has approved the country's first comprehensive strategy linking the development of scientific research and higher education. The plans, drawn up by the supreme council of universities (SCU), focus on strengthening research capacity, improving the quality of scientific research, fostering innovation and promoting public understanding of science.

According to Amer Ezzat Salama, minister of higher education and scientific research and president of SCU, the strategy includes plans to build 11 new universities with a science focus within three years. A distance learning university and four technical colleges will also be established in the same period, and existing and planned universities will all be linked to the Internet.

Under the plans, Egyptian research bodies will develop exchange and cooperation programmes with institutions — and Egyptian scientists — overseas. The strategy also calls for the establishment of a national policy of accreditation based on international standards to control the quality of research and teaching.

To promote innovation, Egypt will create science parks and develop policies for protection of intellectual property rights.

According to Salama, the SCU and supreme council for scientific research will jointly set up and run a scientific research development fund. The fund will be used to upgrade the equipment in the Egyptian universities and bring them into the information age.

"We have already initiated contacts with the business community, economic institutions and a number of non-governmental organisations that have expressed willingness to partly sponsor scientific research projects," says Salama.

Salama says the strategic plan will be evaluated and updated at a national conference for higher education in June 2005.

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