In just over two years, NJIT will be opening a branch campus in Mostak-bal City, Egypt that serves over 3,000 students. NJIT’s business partner in this operation is Tatweer Misr for Touristic Investments and Land Reclamation, also referred to as Tatweer Misr.
NJIT President Dr. Joel Bloom has been working closely with this initiative since its fruition in 2018 when the government of Egypt signed a law called International Branch Campus. The country invited internationally ranked universities to consider opening a branch in Egypt. “We did not respond in the affirmative,” Bloom said. “We didn’t respond at all.”
Ocean County College then contacted Bloom saying that it wanted to compete for one of the IBCs. Since county colleges only provide education for the lower division, first and sophomore years, Ocean asked NJIT to be the upper division, junior and senior years. NJIT agreed to this, and Ocean received “very good reception” on its trip to Egypt.
Provost and Senior Executive Vice President Dr. Fadi Deek met with possible developers that would ultimately be NJIT’s partners in the operation, one of which was Tatweer Misr; Bloom, along with the president of Ocean County College, met with the CEO of Tatweer Misr in 2019.
In the same visit, Bloom spoke to the minister of higher education in Egypt. “He knows all of our international rankings, and he compared us to other Egyptian universities,” Bloom mentioned. “He tells me that they’re not as inclined to work with a county college as they are inclined to work with a four-year institution.”
In 2019, Ernst & Young completed a Feasibility Study for a branch campus to help NJIT with projected statistics on how the campus would perform if NJIT took on the project.
Finally, in April of 2021, Bloom signed a working agreement to start developing the campus. “[The people who are part of the Tatweer Misr Institute for Education] pay for everything. They build the campus. They operate the campus. They hire staff – hire faculty,” he stated. “It’s their educational institute; we’re the contracted deliverer of the curriculum.”
The only NJIT employee there will be in the future is an associate provost, or campus president. NJIT standards are still in play on this campus – the admissions, faculty, classrooms, labs, student assessment.
“This was an opportunity for us to have an international presence,” Bloom said. “It’s an opportunity to gain more revenue for a university back home.” Africa is one of the fastest growing continents and has “tons of natural resources,” he added, “so it is a continent of the future.”
He spoke more in detail about the first visit he made to Egypt and why it was significant. He reached on a Thursday and was given an agenda for Saturday and Sunday since he had to leave on Monday. Confused, he asked why there was nothing scheduled for Friday. “It took me a little while to figure out they don’t work on Fridays,” Bloom admitted.
Another part of that trip consisted of hearing a horn played four times a day to mark times of prayer. These are two instances that emphasized the need to learn about the cultural differences between the United States and Egypt. “There are different laws – different customs,” Bloom mentioned. “We don’t want to make those mistakes when we enter a new country.”
In order to address these concerns, he formed an NJIT-Egypt Initiative Advisory Committee consisting of students, faculty and staff who have Egyptian backgrounds. The first meeting took place on March 23 this year, and attendees were educated on the initiative, the IBC law and NJIT’s experience with the operation so far. Towards the end, attendees were able to share their ideas and knowledge of Egypt.
The committee’s chair is Layek Abdel-Malek, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering. He has been informed of this operation since 2018. “I’m not very worried about the cultural differences, as there are 24 international universities working there,” Malek mentioned. “The committee is only expected to meet twice or three times a year.”
His only concern is the competition that NJIT might face. “NJIT needs to find its niche to secure its spot in this territory,” he said. He is nonetheless very impressed and excited for this initiative to begin in Fall 2024.
According to a document from New Jersey’s Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, capital expenses are estimated to be close to $140 million, along with start-up expenses for the first year totaling to about $2.5 million.
Bloom shared that much of the physical campus is to be constructed underground due to increased temperatures surrounding the higher grounds. There’s also going to be another iconic NJIT clock tower on the campus. There are two STEM high schools next to the branch, extremely suitable for what NJIT stands for.
The NJIT President-elect Dr. Teik Lim has also been briefed about this operation. Bloom acknowledged that Lim has had experience with international campuses while working at the University of Cincinnati. “[Lim] supports this initiative,” Bloom said. “He is an international citizen himself; he gets it – he truly gets it.”
Bloom is glad to have had the opportunity to work on projects such as this one at NJIT. “I was supposed to do something else, like go to Wall Street and make a lot of money,” he said, “but I’m richer for having been here [for the past thirty years].” While he won’t be serving as the NJIT President when NJIT-Egypt goes live, he is looking forward to showing support.