The head of Egypt's Cairo University says his recent decision to ban female staff from wearing the full face veil aims to put an end to student complaints of "poor communication" in class.

Although the head-to-toe covering known locally as the niqab is "not a phenomenon" among his teachers, Gaber Nassar told The Associated Press Friday that he wants to "cure the disease" before it becomes one.

Islamic clerics and students have denounced the move as discriminatory, but Nassar said he has the backing of the Grand Mufti, Egypt's top religious authority.

Nassar says the face veil is especially problematic in language courses, where the cloth barrier of the veil hinders student-teacher communications — producing low grades and graduates incapable of enunciation.