The Supreme Administrative Court ruled in favor of Nile University students Saturday, affirming the institution’s ownership rights to the lands and buildings claimed by the Ahmed Zewail City of Science and Technology.
The court rejected the challenges filed and annulment requests lodged by Zewail City’s against previous rulings which were never enforced by the government, giving the non-profit research university the right to all the buildings and land located in Sheikh Zayed.
Following the January 25 uprising, successive prime ministers Ahmed Shafiq and Essam Sharaf had issued decisions to transfer the land, labs and facilities over to the Zewail City project, the namesake of Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail.
In November 2012, a court ruling annulled an earlier decision to transfer the institution’s land and buildings to Zewail, which meant that students and faculty could reclaim their campus. An April 2013 ruling stipulated the same, giving the students rights to the campus.
“Today’s ruling was against the challenge lodged six months ago against the enforcement of the previous court order. The court saw it as invalid and merely an attempt to stall the enforcement of the ruling,” Fatma Serag, a lawyer with the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, who has been following the case closely.
Students have held numerous protests and sit-ins demanding their rights to the campus, which at times were forcibly dispersed by security forces. In parallel, the Save Nile University campaign on social media garnered a wide following and built a network of support for the university’s students and faculties.
Essentially, today’s verdict means that the ruling giving Nile University the rights to lands and buildings must be implemented. And although Zewail is expected to further challenge the premise of the case, which is a lengthier legal process, today’s ruling must first be applied, Serag explained.
“This is a big victory for Nile University,” says Serag. Without access to the full campus, the university has not been able to accept new students for two years. “It did not have space for new students, and that has resulted in financial troubles for the university. Some professors have not been getting paid.”
Social media was abuzz with congratulations for the students and faculty of Nile University, but the main concern raised was whether this government will move diligently to enforce the court ruling.
Former Minister of Higher Education Hossam Eissa was criticized for making no moves to resolve the longstanding dispute between Nile University students and Ahmed Zewail over the ownership of the institution’s lands and buildings as confirmed by two court rulings.
In its ruling, the court called upon the government to find an alternative location and provide the necessary support for the construction of Zewail City, reported state-run news agency MENA. It pointed to a specific plot of available land adjacent to Nile University spanning 148 acres, urging the government to allocate it to Zewail City so that the two institutions can be in close proximity to forge a “scientific renaissance for all Egyptians.”