The emergence of Cairo University and its development helped the Egyptian patriotic movement in the early 21st century. It produced elite of patriotic leaders, pioneers of enlightenment movement and social thought in Egypt, such as Mohamed Abdu, Mustafa Kamel, Mohamed Farid, Qassem Amin, and Saad Zaghloul. The emergence of the university achieved a dream that for long time teased the imagination of the people of this country; it is establishing a university that promote the country in all walks of life, and that be beacon for freedom of thought and the scientific basis for the rise of the country and a bridge with sources of modern science, and be the melting pot in which necessary cadres are prepared in all disciplines to share the world in scientific progress.
However, this hope found strong opposition on the part of the British occupation authorities especially from Lord Cromer who realized that the establishment of the University in Egypt meant create an educated class of Egyptians realizes that independence is not just the liberation of the land, but it is the liberation of the Egyptian personality itself. Despite opposition, this did not weaken enthusiasm about the idea, for committee of patriots quickly took charge of the matter through making sacrifices and enduring hardships in order for the idea to come to light and become a reality.
Egyptian University was inaugurated as a civil university on the twenty first of December 1908, in a solemn ceremony held at Shura Council Chamber, attended by Khedive Abbas II and some statesmen. On the evening of the inauguration day, study began at the university in form of lectures, and because there was no permanent headquarters allocated to lectures at the time, lectures where received in various halls that were advertised in daily newspapers, such as; hall of the Shura Council of the laws, high school club, and Dar-el-Garida until the university has taken place in El-Khawaja Nestor Ganaklis Sarai, occupied by American University now.
As a result of financial difficulties, which the university suffered from during the First World War, the university's building moved to Saray Mohamed Sedki, El-Azhar Square, El-Falaki Street, to save expenses. The university struggled to stand on its feet, and to be able to set up the nucleus to its staff members by sending some outstanding students to universities in Europe, such as; Taha Hussein, Mansour Fahmy, and Ahmed Deif.
The university has also established a library that included precious books, which were donated from within and outside the country. As a result of what the civil University achieved of high hopes that expressed the aspirations of the Egyptians, in 1917, the government thought in establishing a public university, and formed a committee for the sake of this, combining high schools to the university satisfaction; joined the schools of law and medicine to the university on 12/03/1923.
In 11/3/1925, a decree issued a law to establish the governmental university on behalf of the Egyptian University which was composed of four faculties; Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Medicine, and Faculty of Law, and at the same year, Faculty of Pharmacy was joined to Faculty of Medicine.
In 1928, the university began to establish permanent headquarters for itself in its current location which it obtained from the government, seeking compensation for the land that Princess Fatma, daughter of Khedive Ismail donated for the university.In 22/8/1935, the royal decree issued law number 91that states integration of schools of Engineering, Agriculture, Commerce, and Veterinary Medicine in the Egyptian University.
In 31/10/1935, a decree was issued to annex Institute of Aquaculture to the Egyptian University.
In 1938, school of veterinary medicine was separated from Faculty of Medicine, and became an independent faculty. In 32/5/1940, law number 27 was issued to change the name of Egyptian University to Fouaad the First University. In 24/4/1946, law number 33 was issued to annex Faculty of Dar El-Ulum to the university. In 28/12/1953, a decree was issued to modify the name of the university from Fouaad the First to Cairo University.
In 1955 the departments of Pharmacy and Oral and Dental Medicine were separated from the Faculty of Medicine, in order for each of them to become independent faculties. In the same year, the branch of Cairo University at El-Khartoum was established and flags of the university fluttered at the South Valley, and successively faculties were established after that; study began at Faculty of Economics and Political Science in the academic year 60/1961. In 1962, Statistical Studies and Research Institute was established, as well as Institute of Physiotherapy which was converted on January, 1992 to Faculty of Physiotherapy.
In 1964, the High Institute for Nursing was established and annexed to Faculty of Medicine, in 1969, National Cancer Institute was established, and in 1979, Institute of Regional and Urban Planning was established, and was converted into Faculty of Regional and Urban Planning in 1991.
In 1987, Institute of Educational Studies and Research was established at Cairo University, and on 9/9/1998 decision number (278B) was issued to establish National Institute of Laser Enhanced Sciences (NILES), which is considered the first high institute for laser science and its applications in the Arab world.
Then Faculty of Computers and Information was established in 1996. The role of the university was not confined to serving the surrounding environment, but it was extended to near governorates, thus, the university established a branch in Fayoum, including faculties of Education, Agriculture, Engineering, Social Service, Islamic and Arabic Studies, Tourism and Hotels, Archaeology, and Science. Faculties of Commerce, Law, Veterinary Medicine, Science, Arts, Education, and Pharmacy have been established in branches of Fayoum and Bani Soeif, and the branch of Fayoum became independent in 1981. The process of building and development is still in its way, in order for Cairo University to remain as it always was an embodiment of pride of every Egyptian.