ALGERIA: Variable progress in Bologna's fifth year

As 135,000 new students enrol for university studies, Algeria is about to begin its fifth academic year since it started introducing the Bologna higher education structure - with varying rates of progress in different institutions, reported La Tribune of Algiers.

The newspaper gave a few examples of how Bologna was faring after four years. "Each year new courses and new specialisations are announced in the different universities of the country. The criteria are not necessarily the same for each university depending on their teaching resources and the availability of teachers and administrative personnel," said La Tribune.

The system is structured around bachelor, master and doctoral studies equivalent to three, five and eight years, for which credits are awarded. It is known as 'LMD' (licence, master, doctorat) in French-speaking countries.

At the Houari Boumediène University of Sciences and Technology (USTHB) in Bab Ezzouar LMD had been introduced in all courses, despite opposition and reservations from students and teachers, said La Tribune. But the old system had also been maintained, "not without creating a certain confusion," it said, and it raised some as yet unresolved questions: "Which [system] to choose, the old or the new? Will this totally new experience be conclusive? Will there be links between the two systems?"

At Algiers University, LMD was "progressing slowly, very slowly compared with USTHB", reported the paper. Its experimental introduction in two commercial studies courses were judged 'very satisfactory', leading its originators progressively to generalise it. The number of students enrolled in the system there was about 3,400, and the success rate about 65%, reported La Tribune.

This year, the university had introduced it in three specialisations: English in humanities and foreign languages courses, archaeology, and documentation in social and human sciences, said the paper.

The University of Béjaïa had introduced the system in mining engineering. Other specialised courses there were masters in Arabic language and literature, law, and interpreting and translation.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has issued new guidance for the 135,000 freshers and introduced a pre-registration 'confirmation period', reported La Tribune. The aim is to give students the opportunity to reflect calmly on their choice of course, "avoiding the time-wasting, jostling and gnashing of teeth observed in previous years", said the paper.

This year all students have been allocated an email account, and enrolment procedures are being carried out electronically. Each new student could choose a maximum of 10 potential courses in which they would be interested in enrolling, under either LMD or the traditional system. Before registration new students must also sign via the internet a charter setting out information and instructions for university life, and their rights and duties, reported La Tribune.