ALGERIA: More universities, more freshers, fewer teachers

As Algeria completes a five-year university expansion plan, more than half the candidates who took the baccalauréat this summer passed the examination which entitles them to a place in higher education.

According to Education Minister Boubekeur Benbouzid, the bac pass rate of 54% was a new national record, reported La Tribune of Algiers. The paper added that 30% of successful students were awarded a distinction, five times higher than last year.

With the completion of a five-year plan to develop and expand the university system, Benbouzid symbolically handed over responsibility for the reform to Higher Education Minister Rachid Harraoubia who said "all material and human resources were ready to receive the 323,000 freshers".

La Tribune noted that Algeria's higher education network currently caters for more than a million students in 57 institutions. But while there were five times more universities today than a decade ago, the supply of teachers had not kept pace. They now numbered 30,000 or one for every 29 students, said the paper. But 25,000 new teachers needed training to keep up with demands for 2009.

The plan launched in 2004 envisaged the creation of 500,000 teaching posts and 12 new university centres. So far no official information had been made public on the capacity of the system to deal with the 2008-9 academic year, said La Tribune.