NORTH AFRICA: New higher education policies needed

Lack of collaboration between countries, courses that fail to prepare for employment and the introduction of the Bologna process in Tunisian universities were among the problems and challenges facing higher education in the Maghreb region, said participants at a forum held in Tunis last month.

The occasion was the 34th Forum of Contemporary Thought, on the theme 'University reform in the Maghreb', organised by the Temimi Foundation and the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, reported La Presse of Tunis.

Professor Abdeljelil Temimi, founder and Director of the Temimi Foundation and a former professor of modern and contemporary history at Tunis University, told the forum that no Maghreb university featured in the 500 best universities in the world.

He said this was due to absence of a cognitive strategy that could adapt institutions to international scientific changes, and of coordinating mechanisms between the region's universities. He called for efficient new scientific and academic approaches to be devised to promote scientific production in the Maghreb.

Professor Hamed Ben Dhia, President of Sfax University, Tunisia, said each Maghreb state had its own educational policy, without knowing what approaches the others had taken. Also, universities favoured quantity over quality, which led to a multitude of negative repercussions, notably graduate unemployment and rupture between university and society, reported La Presse.

Néjib Zerouali Ouariti, Moroccan ambassador to Tunisia and a former higher education minister, addressed the forum on the role of universities in development. He stressed the need to ensure financial and pedagogical autonomy of institutions, and to adopt the principle of studies combined with workplace training, underlining the importance of universities as a tool of regional development.

In a session on the higher education system based on the Bologna process - known in French as 'LMD' (licence-master-doctorat) for its three levels of three, five and eight years' studies - Wahid Gdoura of the Institut Supérieur de Documentaton of Manouba University described the problems the system was facing in Tunisian universities.

This, he said, was because it had been introduced without being adapted to the local reality, reported TunisieFocus.

Gdoura said more than half of students and university teachers did not know the system well. An inquiry carried out in 2009 by the Union of Higher Education and Scientific Research had found several deficiencies in LMD, because academic staff had not been sufficiently involved in setting up the new system, and because the committees responsible for adopting the licence (bachelor equivalent) had been appointed, rather than elected.

Other problems were the slowness in developing teaching programmes, lack of innovation in the new courses, and the system's inconsistencies with the Tunisian environment.

Gdoura said LMD could be made more efficient regarding educational quality and its adaptation to the needs of the job market if the ministry would engage in a proper debate with teaching staff and employers. There was a need to consolidate the higher education system on a Maghrebian scale, he said.

Dorra Bassi of the Institut Supérieur des Science Humaines de Jendouba told the forum the LMD system, which was supposed to favour employability of new graduates, had become a source of rupture between universities and businesses, and between students and universities, reported TunisieFocus.

She said the tutorial, which entailed supervision of students from the first year of higher education and in Europe embodied the spirit of the system, had faced several difficulties in its application.

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