American University in Cairo (AUC) President Lisa Anderson announced that she would step down at the end of December 2015 in an email to the AUC community on Sunday, after five years in the prestigious position.
Anderson said the board of trustees would announce plans shortly to search for a successor.
“The opportunity to lead this extraordinary institution through some of the most challenging times in its history, as we moved to the New Cairo campus, and in the history of modern Egypt, as we witnessed some of the most profound and often wrenching political changes in a century in both Egypt and the region, has been an extraordinary privilege,” she wrote.
There has been much criticism of Anderson’s presidency by staff and students.
In March this year, the AUC Student Union held a referendum concerning management, filing the results with the university’s board of trustees in the United States. Some 2,600 students and employees participated in the referendum, 97 percent of whom maintained the management couldn’t be trusted. Two percent said they had trust in AUC management, and 1 percent abstained.
The referendum followed criticism over claims by AUC management that the budget was in deficit, leading to the dismissal of 20 percent of the university’s workers.
In April, a number of workers declared a strike over their salaries and the renewal of their contracts. Sociology Department head Hanan al-Sebai told Mada Masr at the time that the management used talk of a deficit to restructure the university, affecting everyone, not just the cleaning staff.
Since 2011, AUC has decreased the number of scholarships it offers, increased tuition fees and frozen the library budget and the hiring of new staff members.
There has also been a decline in the number of foreign students coming to study at AUC amid the political turmoil of the last few years, and Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) students were relocated temporarily to Jordan.
The AUC Zamalek dormitories, once home to foreign students and some faculty members, is due to close at the end of this month, and no plans have yet been announced for what the university is intending to do with the building.
Last October, the management discontinued the rental of a farm in Beheira used as a research center without compensating the workers.
Anderson was appointed president of AUC in January 2011, after she held the position of provost from 2008-2010. Prior to her appointment at AUC, she was professor of international relations and dean of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
She became AUC’s 11th president, following former President David Arnold, who stepped down in December 2010 after holding the post for seven years.