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New Egyptian university to promote sustainable development

By NNA staff

CAIRO (NNA) – The first non-profit university in the Middle East with sustainable development as its overall guiding principle will start teaching its initial intake of students this October.

The Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development has its origins in the Heliopolis Academy which was started by the Sekem Initiative as long ago as 1999. The university itself was officially established in 2010.

The special feature of the courses is their interdisciplinary character and specifically the integration of teaching, research and practice “to give students the skills to find creative solutions for the most pressing problems of the world community,” the university says in a press release.

“One central component of the philosophy of the university, which distinguishes it from many other institutions, is the close connection not just between teaching and research, but also practice,” the press release adds.

During their studies, students work on projects in partner companies using a problem-solving approach. Thus they acquire new competences through studying and new skills while applying them in reality. This also allows the students to focus on an area of their choice, keeping motivation high throughout the studies and in the long term meaningfully linking personal success to company success, the university explains.

“The degree obtained is grounded on a solid academic education coupled with practical experiences, but at the same time answers business needs, which drives students to be innovatively thinking.”

Another special element is the core programme which makes up fifteen percent of any given course and is intended to “awaken the students’ individual creativity,” the university website says. It includes “course streams” in natural and social sciences, languages and art to develop critical and artistic thinking, enhance perceptual skills and interdisciplinary capabilities.

“The core programme enables the student to transform old thought patterns into creative ways of action. This training engages the head, heart and the hands. Through self-reflection and self-expression, students grow in confidence. Upon reaching the work place, the student is now equipped with the necessary skills needed for problem solving,” the university says.

In the initial phase, the university will have three faculties. These are Engineering and Technology, Pharmacy and Business Economics for Sustainable Development offering BSc degrees in Energy Engineering, Mechatronics Engineering,  Water Engineering and Pharmacy as well as a BA in Business and Economics.

The Sekem Initiative was founded in 1977 by Dr.? Ibrahim Abouleish to strengthen sustainable development in Egypt by producing, processing, and marketing organic and biodynamic foodstuffs, textiles, and phyto-pharmaceuticals. Sekem has been widely praised as an “Egyptian organic pioneer” and received the 2003 Right Livelihood Award (“Alternative Nobel Prize”) as a „Business Model for the twenty-first century” and an “economy of love”. With part of their profits the Sekem companies co-finance the social and cultural activities of the Sekem Development Foundation that runs, among other things, several schools, a medical centre, an academy of applied sciences, and other institutions in Egypt.

Sekem published its latest sustainability report in July, presenting the key facts and figures for 2011 – ranging from Sekem’s relationships with its suppliers, the structure of the workforce and the consumption of resources to investments in land reclamation and education, and the assessment of the carbon dioxide footprint of the Sekem group of companies.

The new report reaffirms the success of Sekem’s holistic business model based on a “unique and all-encompassing concept of sustainability” and sheds light on the resilience of the initiative during the year of 2011, Sekem says.

“The report shows how the close interplay of social, economic, and environmental aspects, deliberately strengthened by the Sekem business model, has played a substantial part in ensuring Sekem’s performance under the challenges of the Egyptian revolution,” Sekem said in a press release.

“Its holistic business model sets it apart from other businesses engaging in efforts to advance sustainable development,” the initiative added.


Item: 120914-01EN Date: 14 September 2012

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