MOROCCO: US$1.7 billion reform plan

Morocco has launched a four-year US$1.7 billion emergency plan to overhaul its education system. This includes reforming universities in an effort to boost the country's science and technology workforce and promote knowledge-based sustainable development.

The reforms aim to make significant headway in meeting some of Morocco's UN Millennium Development Goals by the target date of 2015. It focuses on enhancing the research reputation of Moroccan universities, improving higher education quality and increasing the sector's capacity as the number of students in the science and engineering fields is expected to double by 2012 as the number of students passing the baccalaureate examination after high school increases.

According to the 2008 Unesco report The Science and Technology System of the Kingdom of Morocco, 40 tertiary institutions are operating, including 14 universities as well as private higher education institutions and polytechnics. Official statistics put the number of university students at 277,428 in 2004.

The University of Al-Karaouine is considered the world's oldest continuously operating degree-granting university, while Al Akhawayn University is the first private English university to be founded in North Africa.

Under the education plan, the King of Morocco Mohamed IV recently oversaw the signing of 17 agreements between the government and universities to improve higher education. These ranged from hiring additional lecturers and raising teaching credentials to expanding infrastructure.

The plan commits universities to take the necessary steps to improve performance, promote high-quality teaching and develop scientific research, with a view to enabling Moroccan universities become internationally competitive. The government has targeted accrediting 92% of its universities as research institutions by 2012, compared with 69% in 2008.

Universities will be made financially independent from the government to make them more responsive to research needs and better able to forge links with the private sector.

The plan will be financed by the Ministry of National Education, Higher Education, Professional Training and Scientific Research, along with partial support from grants and loans from international organisations including the French Development Agency, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, World Bank and European Commission.

Abdeljelil Bakri, former head of the insect biological control unit at the Marrakech-based faculty of sciences Semlalia at the University of Cadi Ayyad, welcomed the plan: "It is urgently needed to reform the country's ailing higher educational system, foster a culture of entrepreneurship in the academic community and produce industry-ready graduates." Bakri told University World News.

Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane is a not-for-profit state-owned university, not a private university as mentioned in the article.
Abderrahim Agnaou