Since its founding in 1919, the American University in Cairo has been continuously and gradually expanding over the years, and the move to this new, vast campus needed a lot of payments.
This academic year, the university’s expenses are excessively higher than its revenues and initially there was a budget deficit of around 25 million dollars. The Board of Trustees insisted that this deficit be reduced to eight million dollars, and the university’s attempts to decrease it have ranged from increasing student tuition fees to cutting budgets and imposing spending restrictions in most of the departments.
These budget cuts have had considerably noticeable effects on most of the departments of the university, and each department has been trying to manage with different tactics.
One staff member, who chose not to give her name, in the Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Egyptology department (SAPE) said that, “The budget cuts affect our department in all of its services. For example, the field trips for the students have been minimized.”
She also complained about registration saying, “Registration was a total mess and the staff were under a lot of pressure. The staff members were not notified of the large number of new students.”
She also commented on how “unfair” this semester has been for the staff members who have been getting more workload and less reward, asserting that “the salaries of the staff need to be adjusted as the workload expands; there needs to be a balance.”
Abeer Naccash, the executive assistant in the art department (which is also in charge of film productions) said, “(The budget cuts) didn’t affect us much because we knew about these cuts in advance. We had time to prepare a bit before the major decrease in the budget.”
The art department reacted to these cuts by minimizing the part-time faculty and relying more on the full time faculty by giving them overloads. At the end of last year, the department’s faculty included sixty part-timers; now the part-timers amount to around forty people.
In Naccash’s opinion, “there had, either way, been too many people working in the years before, and this year’s amount is much more rational. Before, the art department offered some classes with maximum enrollment of 15; however now the maximum enrollment is 30.”
The department also coped by reducing the printing and duplicating budget line by a whole fifty percent, which means they now have no other choice but to produce less flyers and posters than they had in the past. Also, because of the budget cuts, they were not able to have all the equipment that they had requested or needed.
“I feel like I haven’t been getting enough facilities open to me at the art department. For example, there is only one computer lab and not all the computers are working. Also, they should add more music equipment in the music classes. There are very small things they could invest in. The money is not distributed properly in the art department” said Kiki Hadad, a graduating art senior.
The department of Petroleum and Energy Engineering’s capital department funds reduced by about fifty percent this semester. This, according to the department’s chair Dr. Magdi Nassrallah, is “very difficult for a developing department.” For a department doing work in a field as strategic as Petroleum and Energy Engineering, the equipment needed is very expensive.
Dr. Nassrallah clarified the consequences saying, “The result, of course, is that we were not able to purchase the equipment needed to operate our laboratories and we’re trying to handle our labs with the facilities that we do have.”
Another problem facing almost all the departments is the amount of new students admitted to the university this semester, which creates an unpleasant combination of weakened services and an influx of students. The caps on most of the classes have been modified and many classes have up to forty students or more.
Professor of Mathematics, Dr. Abdel Nasser Saad comments, “The classes are overcrowded, which of course, affects the quality of explanation inside the class.”
“We cannot cater to the needs of all our students if they keep limiting our expenditures” Dr. Magdi Nassrallah added.
Ashraf El Fiqi, VP of Student Affairs, explains the reasons behind the budget cuts saying, “It is not only about the departments, but we tried to lower our expenses last semester especially when the foreign students returned back to their countries in the revolution period and we had to do without their tuition fees.”