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The American University in Cairo Established Type President Provost Academic staff Students Undergraduates Postgraduates Location Campus Mascot Website
الجامعة الأمريكية بالقاهرة
Lisa Anderson
Mahmoud El-Gamal
Full-time 423 Part-time 126
Cairo, Egypt
New Cairo and Tahrir Square

The American University in Cairo (AUC) is an independent, nonprofit, English language, liberal arts university located in Cairo, Egypt. The university offers American-styled learning programs at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels, along with a continuing education program. The AUC student body represents over 100 countries. AUC''s faculty members, adjunct teaching staff and visiting lecturers are internationally diverse and include academics, business professionals, diplomats, journalists, writers and others from the United States, Egypt and other countries. In 2014, the QS World University Rankings placed AUC 360th in the world, 3rd in Africa and 1st in Egypt, and named the School of Business as fourth best in Africa and the Middle East, and among the top 200 in the world. AUC holds institutional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and from Egypt''s National Authority for Quality Assurance and Assessment of Education (NAQAAE).

  • 1 History
  • 2 Campus
  • 3 Governance and administration
  • 4 Academics
  • 5 Notable alumni
  • 6 Notable professors
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links


The American University in Cairo was founded in 1919 by American Mission in Egypt, a Protestant mission sponsored by the United Presbyterian Church of North America, as an English-language university and preparatory school.

AUC was intended to be both a preparatory school and a university. The preparatory school opened to 142 students on October 5, 1920 in Khairy Pasha palace, which was built in the 1860s. The first diplomas issued were junior college-level certificates given to 20 students in 1923.

Some Egyptians did not welcome the creation of a Western-based university, whose religious ties made it suspect, as Christian missionaries were not well received. In 1932, a Muslim student reported that he had been kidnapped by members of the AUC faculty with the hope of converting him, but was later released. The Egyptian press utilized this as a chance to lash out at the university. A few months later, a Muslim student failed his course and accused the AUC of using missionary tactics and degrading Islam. This was followed by another round of harsh critiques from local press. These accounts were most likely exaggerated, but locals believed them likely because of factors such as required biblical studies courses.

Additionally, there were disputes between university founder Charles A. Watson and United Presbyterian leaders in the United States who sought to return the university to its Christian roots. In 1922, after years of writing that the university should be more faithful to its original missionary-related purposes, minister J.R. Alexander met with Watson, who consequently saw an even bigger divide between his goals and those of the church. Four years later, Watson decided that the university could not afford to maintain its original religious ties and that its best hope was the promotion of good moral and ethical behavior. This decision by Watson allowed the university to grow without the potential religious problems in the future, but at the expense of abandoning its original mission.

At first an institution only for males, the university enrolled its first female student in 1928, the same year in which the first university class graduated, with two BAs and one BSc degrees awarded. In the 1950s, the university changed its name from The American University at Cairo, replacing "at" with "in."

The American University in Cairo Press was established in 1960; today, it publishes up to 60 books annually.

In 1978, the university established the Desert Development Center to promote sustainable development in Egypt''s reclaimed desert areas. The Desert Development Center''s legacy is now being carried forward by the Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment.

CampusTahrir Square Campus

AUC was originally established in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. The 7.8-acre Tahrir Square campus was developed around the Khairy Pasha Palace. Built in the neo-Mamluk style, the palace inspired an architectural style that has been replicated throughout Cairo. Ewart Hall was established in 1928, named for William Dana Ewart, the father of an American visitor to the campus, who made a gift of $100,000 towards the cost of construction on the condition that she remain anonymous. The structure was designed by A. St. John Diament, abutting the south side of the Palace. The central portion of the building houses an auditorium large enough to seat 1,200, as well as classrooms, offices and exhibition galleries. The school’s continued growth required additional space, and in 1932, a new building was dedicated to house the School of Oriental Studies. East of Ewart Hall, the centerpiece of the new building is Oriental Hall, an auditorium and reception room built and decorated in an adaptation of traditional styles, yet responsive to the architectural style of their own time.

In the fall of 2008, AUC officially inaugurated AUC New Cairo, a new 260-acre suburban campus in New Cairo, a satellite city 45 minutes away from the downtown campus. New Cairo is a development comprising 46,000 acres of land with a projected population of 2.5 million people. AUC New Cairo provides advanced facilities for research and learning, as well as all the modern resources needed to support campus life. In its master plan for the new campus, the university mandated that the campus express the university’s values as a liberal arts institution in what is essentially a non-Western context with deep traditional roots and high aspirations. The new campus is intended to serve as a case study for how architectural harmony and diversity can coexist creatively and how tradition and modernity can appeal to the senses. Campus spaces serve as virtual laboratories for the study of desert development, biological sciences and the symbiotic relationship between environment and community.

The Research Centers Building houses the AUC Forum, the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Center for American Studies, the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement and the Yousef Jameel Science and Technology Research Center.

The Dr. Hamza AlKholi Information Center houses AUC’s offices for enrollment, admissions, student financial affairs and student services. The Howard Theatre is located at The Hatem and Janet Mostafa Core Academic Center, along with the Mansour Group Lecture Hall, the Academic Advising Center and the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Studies.

There are two theaters within the AUC Center for the Arts, the Malak Gabr Arts Theater and the Gerhart Theater, as well as the Sharjah Art Gallery and offices for the Department of Performing and Visual Arts.

AUC New Campus

The university’s Campus Center provides students with a communal area to eat, congregate, organize trips and attend campus-wide events. Inside the building are a bookstore, gift shop, bank, travel office and the main dining room. There is also a daycare center, a faculty lounge and the Office of Student Services, the Travel Office and the AUC Press Campus shop.

Near the Campus Center is the student-housing complex. Across from the student residences is the three-story AUC Sports Center, including a 2,000-seat multipurpose court, a jogging track, six squash courts, martial arts and exercise studios, a free weight studio and training courts. Outdoor facilities include a 2,000-seat track and field stadium, swimming pool, soccer field, jogging and cycling track and courts for tennis, basketball, handball and volleyball.

Housing one of the largest English-language collections in the region, AUC’s five-story library includes space for 600,000 volumes in the main library and 100,000 volumes in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library; locked carrels; computer workstations; video and audio production and editing labs; and comprehensive resources for digitizing, microfilming and preserving documents. In addition, on the plaza level of the library, the Learning Commons emphasizes group and collaborative learning. This unique area integrates independent study, interactive learning, multimedia and technology rooms, and copy and writing centers.

AUC New Cairo was built using 24,000 tons of reinforcing steel, as well as 115,000 square meters of stone, marble, granite cladding and flooring. More than 7,000 workers worked two shifts on the construction site.

Sandstone for the walls of campus buildings was provided by a single quarry in Kom Ombo, 50 kilometers north of Aswan. The stone arrived by truck in giant multi-ton blocks, which were cut and shaped for walls, arches and other uses at a stone-cutting plant built on the site. The walls were constructed according to energy management systems which reduce campus air conditioning and heating energy use by at least 50 percent as compared to conventional construction methods. More than 75 percent of the stone in the Alumni Wall that circles the campus was recycled from stone that would otherwise have been discarded as waste after cutting.

AUC New Cairo

A 1.6-kilometer service tunnel that runs beneath the central avenue along the spine of AUC’s campus is a key element to making its overall pedestrian nature possible. Services accessible via the tunnel include all deliveries and pickups from campus buildings, fiber optic and technology-related wiring, major electrical conduits and plumbing for hot water, domestic water and chilled water for air conditioning. All other pipes for sewage, natural gas, irrigation and fire fighting are buried on the campus, outside the tunnel, around buildings as needed for their purposes.

The Urban Land Institute recognized AUC’s new campus design and construction with a special award recognizing its energy efficiency, its architecture, its capacity for community development. The two campuses together host 36 undergraduate programs and 46 graduate programs. The New Cairo campus offers six schools and ten research centers.

Margaret Scobey, former US Ambassador to Egypt, was among the guests at the inauguration in February 2009. In her remarks, Scobey said, “The new demands of our new world raise the importance of education. We need our future leaders to be diverse and to have a diverse educational experience…Perhaps most importantly, we need leaders who are dedicated to developing a true respect for each other if we are going to effectively work together to harness these forces of change for the greater good.” Ambassador Scobey also delivered a message of congratulations to AUC from US President Barack Obama.

Governance and administration

The American University in Cairo is an independent educational institution governed by a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees. In addition, there is a panel of trustees emeriti that functions as an advisory board. The Board has its own by-laws and elects a chairperson for an annual term. There are no students on the Board.

Names of presidents and tenures

  • Lisa Anderson (2011–present)
  • David C. Arnold (2003–2011)
  • John D. Gerhart (1998–2003)
  • Donald McDonald (1990–1997)
  • Richard F. Pedersen (1977–1990)
  • Cecil K. Byrd (1974–1977)
  • Christopher Thoron (1969–1974)
  • Thomas A. Bartlett (1963–1969)
  • Raymond F. McLain (1954–1963)
  • John S. Badeau (1944–1953)
  • Charles Watson (1919–1944)

AUC offers undergraduate programs and graduate programs, as well as continuing education opportunities within its schools and research centers. The university’s English-language liberal arts environment is designed to promote critical thinking, language and cultural skills as well as to foster in students an appreciation of their own culture and heritage and their responsibilities toward society.

AUC holds institutional accreditation from the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools in the United States. AUC''s engineering programs are accredited by ABET (formerly Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) and the business programs are accredited by the Association to Advance College Schools of Business (AACSB.) In Egypt, AUC operates within the framework of the 1975 protocol with the Egyptian government, which is based on the 1962 Cultural Relations Agreement between the U.S. and Egyptian governments. In the United States, AUC is licensed to grant degrees and is incorporated by the State of Delaware.

Undergraduate and graduate schools

  • School of Business, Economics, and Communication (BEC)
  • School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS)
  • School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP)
  • School of Sciences and Engineering (SSE)
  • School of Continuing Education (SCE)
  • Graduate School of Education (GSE)

Research centers

  • Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D)
  • AUC Forum
  • Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS)
  • Center for Translation Studies (CTS)
  • Cynthia Nelson Institute for Gender and Women''s Studies
  • Economic and Business History Research Center (EBHRC)
  • El-Khazindar Business Research and Case Center
  • John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement
  • John D. Gerhart Field Station in El Gouna
  • Middle East Studies Center
  • Prince Alwaleed Center for American Studies and Research
  • Research Advisory Council
  • Research Institute for a Sustainable Environment
  • Social Research Center
  • Office of Data Analytics and Institutional Research
  • Office of the Associate Provost for Research Administration
  • Office of Sponsored Programs
  • Yousef Jameel Science and Technology Research Center (YJ-STRC)

Tahrir Square (Downtown Campus)

Student Activities

Most of the student activities at AUC are organized by the students and for the students and address a wide variety of social, political and economic issues. Such activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Delta Phi Epsilon (social), professional foreign service fraternity (Independent Chapter).
  • TEDxAUC: AUC''s platform for Ideas Worth Spreading
  • Developers Inc.
  • Cairo International Model United Nations
  • Astronomy Club
  • Khatwa
  • AUC Times Magazine
Notable alumni
  • Amr Waked, actor
  • Hisham Abbas, singer
  • Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, president of the Maldives from 1978 to 2008
  • Rania al Abdullah, queen of Jordan.
  • Haifa Al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia''s first female filmmaker
  • Tarek Amer, deputy governor of Egypt''s Central Bank
  • Muin Bseiso, poet and activist
  • Aida el Ayoubi, singer, songwriter and guitarist.
  • Khaled Bichara, CEO of Orascom Telecom and founder of LinkDOTNet
  • John O. Brennan, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
  • Juan Cole, American scholar, public intellectual, and historian of the modern Middle East and South Asia. Currently Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.
  • Melanie Craft, romance novelist, Larry Ellison''s Wife (Oracle Corporation CEO)
  • Mona Eltahawy, journalist
  • Yousef Gamal El-Din, regional correspondent and host of Access: Middle East, CNBC Europe
  • Mona El-Shazly, Egyptian talk show host
  • Yosri Fouda, editor and host/presenter on Akher Kalam, a talk show on ONTV
  • Wael Ghonim, Google executive, social activist, social entrepreneur
  • Yuriko Koike, former Japanese Minister of Defense
  • Noha Radwan, professor of Arabic literature at the University of California, Davis
  • Omar Samra, first Egyptian to climb Mount Everest
  • Devin J. Stewart, professor at Emory University
  • Dan Stoenescu, Romanian diplomat, political scientist and journalist
  • Nabil Fahmi, Ex Egyptian foreign minister
  • Yousef Abdul Latif Jameel, founder of the Yousef Abdul Latif Jameel Group
  • Mohamed Shafik Gabr, managing director and chair to ARTOC Group for Investment and Development
  • Karim Farouk Ramadan, general manager of Microsoft Gulf
  • Wael Ahmed Amin, president of IT Worx
  • Raghda El Ebrashi, founder and chair of Alashanek Ya Balady (For My Country)
  • Caroline Maher, top-ranked global tae kwon do champion
Notable professors
  • Emma Bonino, former Commissioner of the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO)
  • Galal Amin, Egyptian economist and commentator
  • Graham Harman, contemporary philosopher of metaphysics
  • Kent Weeks, leading Egyptologist, launched the Theban Mapping Project, which discovered the identity and vast dimensions of KV5, the tomb of the sons of Rameses II in the Valley of the Kings
  • Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author
  • Salima Ikram, leading Egyptologist and expert on animal mummies

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