The involvement of security forces in approving travel documents for Egyptian academics and researchers represents a dangerous intrusion into the freedom granted to the country's universities under the constitution, according to a recent report by the NGO Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression .
The NGO condemned the requirement for academics to have prior approval for any work travel from the security forces after an incident where a professor was denied permission to go abroad to supervise a student's Ph.D. dissertation.
According to AFTE's report, Nabil Labib, a professor in the Faculty of Science at Cairo University, was told by the Higher Education Ministry that he must have prior clearance from the security forces before the ministry would approve his travel. He was eventually denied permission to travel to Hungary to oversee the dissertation.
AFTE warned that the restrictions violate recent constitutional amendments guaranteeing the independence of universities, according to Amendment 21 in the Egyptian Constitution, in addition to Amendment 23 of the constitution which emphasizes “the provision of freedom of scientific research and the encouragement of its institutions.”
The increased on-campus security presence at several Egyptian universities has also drawn protests from many students and professors over the past few years due to the increasing number of students who have been arrested on campus.
In October 2014, a major Egyptian security company, Falcon, was assigned to 15 public universities in Egypt at the start of the first academic year after the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president after the 2011 revolution and a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood.
During the first semester of the academic year 2014-2015, at least 195 university students were arrested.
According to AFTE’s report, at least four cases of intervention into faculty’s academics and research by universities administrations have been reported.