Nile University students welcomed interim President Adly Mansour’s Sunday decision to allow them into a contested piece of land they have been fighting over with Zewail City of Science and Technology for over three years.
During a meeting with representatives from Nile University and Zewail City on Sunday, Mansour reached a “friendly agreement” to allow Nile University students into one of the contested buildings by the beginning of May, reported state-run news agency MENA. In the meantime, Zewail City students would use the other buildings for a year, until they move to a different location.
Nancy Mustafa, a Nile University student, said the students are optimistic about seeing the agreement through. She described the agreement as an “implementation” of a court verdict issued two weeks ago in Nile University’s favour.
“This isn’t a compromise by [Nobel Prize Laureate Ahmed] Zewail,” Mustafa said, in reference to Zewail City’s founder. “They had no other option but to implement the court ruling.”
The Supreme Administrative Court upheld on 22 March a verdict supporting Nile University’s claim over the contested lands. The ruling turned down challenges to a verdict issued in April 2013 submitted by Zewail City. The court also ruled in favour of the return of Nile University students to the contested buildings.
In a statement released on Sunday, Zewail City announced it would hand over the contested buildings to the Cabinet’s Education Development Fund by the end of April. The city added that it would schedule a “friendly meeting” between Nile University’s board of trustees and Zewail City’s academic chairman.
Sherif Fouad, Zewail City’s media advisor, said it was Zewail who requested that the state give the contested buildings to Nile University.
“Zewail called on the president to allocate a separate piece of land for Zewail City if they are interested in seeing our national project through,” Fouad said. He added that the city has already checked out another piece of land of roughly 200 acres in 6th October City, which the presidency is expected to allocate soon.
Mansour has been in contact with Zewail for the past couple of days in an effort to reach “a friendly settlement”, MENA cited Presidential Spokesman Ihab Badawi as saying. Mansour expressed his “deep appreciation” for Zewail’s “constructive stance” toward the matter, in a manner which helps end the conflict “away from judicial struggles”.
The state is expected to allocate another piece of land for Zewail City, where the latter would establish an independent building at its own expense, as per Sunday’s agreement, MENA reported. When this building is established, the contested buildings are to be entirely allocated for Nile University.
In a statement released Tuesday from California, Zewail said he was confident that millions view Zewail City as a national project that will contribute to Egypt’s prestige.
On Saturday, interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb visited both Nile University and Zewail City and met with each institution’s chairman in an effort to find a solution to the ongoing disagreement.
The Supreme Administrative Court’s initial April 2013 verdict gave Nile University the right to the disputed land. The ruling also necessitated that Nile University be declared a civil university. The university was recognised under the designation after the issuance of the law governing civil universities in 2009; the recognition is nevertheless yet to be ratified by the president.
The ruling contradicted a December 2012 decree from ousted president Mohamed Morsi, granting Zewail City apportionment of the land, which is public property that cannot be given to a private university.
Zewail City filed an appeal with the Supreme Constitutional Court objecting to the Supreme Administrative Court’s 2013 verdict. The university argued that the Giza Court, which is a civil court, ruled in favour of Zewail City in 2012. The City called for a ruling on the two conflicting verdicts.
Since the Supreme Administrative Court’s 2013 decision, Nile University students have not yet been granted access to the disputed buildings. Nile University students currently attend their classes at the Smart Village, which they describe as inadequate and lacking of laboratories and workshops. Zewail City accepted 300 students into the contested buildings at the beginning of its first academic year last September.