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Students demand more masters programmes

Students have raised concerns in a recent report about the lack of masters degree programmes being offered by universities, a situation they believe is thwarting their academic and professional aspirations.

New measures for reforming the masters degree programmes in higher education institutions are contained in a 15 February report entitled The Vision of the National Union for the Reality of Postgraduate Studies in Mauritania: The masters degree, prepared by the executive office of the National Union of Mauritanian students or UNEM.

The report indicates that nine years after the initial adoption of a uniform structure of tertiary study known in French as the licence-master-doctorate or LMD system, its implementation continues to be subject to criticism from sections of the academic and student communities.

LMD came into effect in 2008 and was designed to align Mauritanian higher education with international systems and standards. Basically, it includes a bachelor degree of three years, a two-year masters and a three or more-year doctoral degree.

Poor implementation

"Despite satisfaction around the adoption of the LMD system, its implementation has suffered from a number of administrative, educational and academic problems" stated a UNEM report prepared by the Union Secretary General Habib Gah.

These problems are most notable at the masters degree level in all national institutions of higher education ranging from masters degrees either not being offered at all or only being offered in limited faculties.

The UNEM report claims that preventing students from earning a masters degree renders them unable to enhance their personal and professional skills and to pursue a career of their choice.

A 3 February media report published by Al Arab Today newspaper indicates that Mauritanian students protested in front of education institutions and the offices of the ministry in charge of higher education, demanding the opening of registration in masters degree programmes in all faculties of the University of Nouakchott. Masters degrees in certain faculties were scrapped there two years ago.

Strategic plan

In the February report Gah, who is also vice-president of All-Africa Students Union, calls for a strategic plan to improve the current system. Among the recommendations were the following:

  • Creating stable educational curricula able to keep pace with today's rapid scientific developments.
  • Providing sufficient financial support.
  • Preparing efficient lecturers, professors and staff for teaching, technical and administrative purposes.
  • Offering masters degree programmes in all institutions and in all disciplines to absorb the large numbers of students.
  • Offering professional masters degree programmes especially in the faculties of technology and economy as well as professional institutes to facilitate the quicker integration of students into the labour market.
  • Providing the necessary logistics including laboratories and integrated information systems.
  • Setting up a modern academic library to create a favourable learning environment for scientific research.
  • Benefiting from the experiences of nearby countries and pursuing scientific and research cooperation.
  • Adjusting the annual start and closure time for applying to masters programmes and respect for graduation deadlines.

Speaking to University World News, Hilmi Salem, an Arab higher education consultant, said the status of postgraduate studies in Mauritania was comparable to other North African countries such as war-torn Libya.

"Thus, the recommendations of the UNEM report could be relevant to other northern African countries seeking to improve their masters degree programmes,” he said.

According to the 2016 Arab Strategy for Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation, prepared by the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization located in Tunis, Tunisia, only 10% of the total Arab university graduate students become postgraduate students and 80% of those carry out their studies abroad, contributing to the Arab brain drain.

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