ALGERIA: Problems of corruption and Bologna process

As a national conference of university managers was starting last week, La Tribune of Algiers questioned the state of affairs in "a sector corrupted by scandal". The paper also reported continuing disruption, and opposition from students and lecturers, over introduction of the Bologna process to the country's universities.

Journalist Mohamed Ouanezar described a "climate of tension based on management scandals and dubious public contracts" as the national conference on university operations was opening in Algiers.

It brought together university directors from all over the country, higher education executives, managers from the Office National des Oeuvres Universitaires and representatives of the Ministry of Higher Education to discuss preparations for the 2011-12 academic year.

But in view of general deterioration in the sector, the meeting would be marked by peaks of tension and internal rivalries, wrote Ouanezar. "Problems linked to management of the sector and scandals which have blown up in recent years, especially concerning the signing of public contracts...should crop up in the debates."

For those in charge in Oran, Algeria's second city, "the record presented must not omit the many failures in the system of local administration," wrote Ouanezar.

In particular he cited acceptance of work on university housing in Belgaïd, "where defects and shortcomings in construction are multiple and quite serious, as mentioned in student reports; [and] public demonstrations [have taken place] bordering on riots by thousands of students out in the streets to protest their disarray faced with the deterioration of their living conditions in new and old campuses".

Ouanezar also referred to administrative scandals, legal convictions, costly proceedings brought against managers, and an inquiry just completed by the fraud squad over management of a university residence.

"So many points, and others, which will not fail to feed the debates if they are raised," wrote Ouanezar. If the opposite proved to be the case, the conference would be "just a simple parody to fool the country's officials regarding the true situation in the sector".

La Tribune also reported continuing controversy over introduction of the Bologna process, known in French as 'LMD' (licence-master-doctorate) for the three degree levels of three, five and eight years' higher studies.

Although LMD was introduced in 2003-04, the system "has not stopped rocking the boat for students who are often angry, always disoriented", said the paper.

This university year students from several of the country's universities had been protesting against the "incoherence again marking application of the system through anomalies including delays in enrolments, and tightening up of admission conditions for masters courses" which had marginalised most bachelors graduates, or led to masters courses being terminated completely without notice.

The new academic year had been marked by several protests in Constantine, Sétif, Tizi Ouzou and Boumerdès, with students demonstrating their opposition by marches, hunger strikes or boycotting classes, said La Tribune.

It said students complained that the "LMD we've been presented with as a system offering more freedom in constructing a course of studies has turned out to be disastrous".

Some teachers had joined in the protests, questioning the introduction of LMD into Algerian universities, which had already had problems with the traditional system, "simply because it had given more or less better results in European universities", said the paper. The teachers did not believe their universities were ready in terms of human resources or infrastructure, said La Tribune.

One lecturer told the press that: "On the ground, LMD still faces pedagogical, material, but especially management problems. There remains, to this day, considerable confusion over organisation of courses, schedules, semesters and examinations."

But he added he believed many problems could be sorted out with better organisation. "The problems of lecture rooms, laboratory equipment, of teachers, are not due to lack of resources but bad management."

* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original report.