Boosting Egyptian medical education with Manchester expertise

Two Egyptian universities are collaborating with The University of Manchester to enhance their medical training programmes and equip students with the skills they need to work as a doctor internationally.

Two decades ago, the medical education system in Egypt was highly traditional in that doctor training places for home students were funded by the government.

A collaboration between Mansoura University and The University of Manchester that began in 2006 aimed to expand Mansoura's medicine programme. It did so by adapting teaching and learning methods used in the UK for the Egyptian system, while making the course more attractive to overseas students.

Now Manchester has formed a partnership with a second Egyptian institution, Alexandria University, to establish a joint award medical programme that saw its first cohort begin their studies in 2021.

Image: Professor Doug Corfield.

Professor Doug Corfield

Doug is Professor of Medical Sciences at The University of Manchester.

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"Egypt has very much started from a state-backed or funded higher education system," explains Professor Doug Corfield, a Professor of Medical Sciences at Manchester who has been involved with both collaborations.

"There is now much more liberalisation in higher education there. State-funded universities can now offer, in a sense, private programmes."

The Mansoura collaboration began when Prof El Said Abdel Hady, the university's Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and a former PhD student at Manchester, approached the University with the idea of working together on medical education in Egypt.

"Manchester was very much recognised as somewhere that had a modern integrated medical programme, so it was the reputation and the quality of the education that I think appealed," Professor Corfield says.

Enhancing medical teaching and learning

The Mansoura programme is a single award from the Egyptian university, and has a cohort of 250 students in each year of the course. The programme content encourages students to undertake more independent learning than on a traditional Egyptian medicine course.

"It's very much about the enquiry-based learning approaches that we use in a number of programmes at Manchester," Professor Corfield says. "That, and what we would call the early clinical experience and the early clinical exposure differs from traditional Egyptian courses.

"So, you could say that's been part of the opportunity we've had to work with them - to really work with Egyptian medical educators who've been very keen to incorporate those elements of our educational approaches."

The partnership doesn't just concern teaching. One other outcome of the collaboration has been an initiative to recruit newly qualified doctors from Mansoura into two-year foundation roles at NHS trusts.

"While they're working for the trust, they study with us on a bespoke postgraduate diploma in clinical practice that we put together especially for that purpose," Professor Corfield explains.

"The trusts feel that they are recruiting people with a known background, who have a familiarity with UK English medical education and would fit well into the NHS."

This means that these Egyptian doctors are likely to have a longer induction than might be usual for other overseas doctors working in the NHS. This leads to better integration into the NHS and the UK health system.

Three medical students sitting on steps.

"It's been a very interesting educational project to see those benefits, both from the academic side and the university side, and for the trust," Professor Corfield says. "In principle, I think it's also an implementation model that could be expanded quite considerably."

At Alexandria, the programme with Manchester is a joint award that closely follows the Manchester curriculum while offering a degree from both institutions. Because of this, it's important to ensure the programme meets the requirements of both the UK and Egypt's health systems – for example, making sure students are familiar with legal and ethical requirements in both countries.

"We've had some interesting discussions about medical ethics and the legal side of medicine," Professor Corfield says.

"It's been very stimulating and enjoyable working with educators who are looking to see the impact that they can have not just on their own programmes, but also on Egyptian approaches to medical education."

Benefits for all

The advantages of studying on such programmes include the ability of international students to either return to their home country to practice medicine or work elsewhere in the world.

"In the Egyptian health service and universities, anybody who is in leadership roles in medical education or healthcare has worked abroad at some point, as it's a very important part of their training," says Professor Corfield. "So, a degree that gives them that opportunity to work and study abroad and then return home with those enhanced skills is a general benefit for Egypt."

It is not only students and employers that are benefiting from Manchester's work in Egypt. Both collaborations involve staff exchanges between the two institutions that help educators to explore new approaches to teaching.

While the COVID-19 pandemic put a temporary stop to such exchanges, staff at Manchester were able to apply the technology and skills needed for online teaching to the Egyptian programmes.

"Effectively, we managed to do all the staff development associated with the first Alexandria cohort entirely virtually, which is nothing that we'd really planned to do, but you could say that was one of our unexpected successes in quite difficult times," Professor Corfield explains.

"More recently, colleagues have gone out there for a face-to-face visit that has supplemented that earlier virtual training."

Future collaborations

The Mansoura collaboration has already sparked another initiative focusing on undergraduate dentistry teaching and learning, while Manchester has also worked on smaller collaborative projects with institutions in the Middle East. It is likely that further medical education partnerships with other institutions will follow.

"The fact that we've now worked successfully with a number of international universities and have been able to show that we can successfully implement the curriculum in different environments gives a real confidence that we could do it successfully elsewhere," Professor Corfield says.

Learn more about Manchester's global health collaborations.