Euro-Mediterranean University of Morocco to be opened in 2014

The 43 states of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) plan to set up an international centre for higher education and research, the Euro-Mediterranean University of Morocco, with a focus on Euro-Mediterranean issues and priorities.

Meanwhile, Morocco’s government has announced reforms, including an end to free higher education.

The plan to establish Euromed-UM, which will fall under Morocco’s Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Staff Training, was outlined in an 11 July report of the European Union Neighbourhood Info Centre.

Based in Fes, Euromed-UM will be inaugurated in 2014 and its structure will be finalised in 2021.

On completion of all education and research programmes, the university will accommodate around 3,000 students from across the Euro-Mediterranean region comprising the 27 member states of the EU and 16 African and Middle Eastern countries in the Mediterranean basin.

Euromed-UM will focus on programmes dealing with Mediterranean history, cultural heritage and civilisations, political and economic sciences and law, and solar energy and fields in materials engineering.

It is the second university to be established by UfM, after it set up the Euro-Mediterranean University (EMUNI) in Slovenia. EMUNI was established as an international network of universities – 179 members from 38 countries – to improve higher education quality through the implementation of postgraduate programmes with a special focus on cultural diversity.

Hilmi Salem, an international higher education consultant, told University World News that Euromed-UM could be an important partner in establishing an excellent educational culture in Morocco and the African and Middle Eastern countries in the Mediterranean basin, and could contribute to setting up the Euro-Mediterranean Higher Education, Science and Research Area.

Higher education reforms

Meanwhile, Morocco’s Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Staff Training Lahcen Daoudi has announced several measures to improve the finance and quality of higher education in the country, according to a 24 July report from North Africa United.

The measures include scrapping free higher education. “We are willing to support poor students from lower-middle classes, but it is time that households which can afford to do so, contribute to the effort of the community,” said the minister.

The current system of promotion of university staff, which is based on seniority, will also be ended and replaced by a system including new criteria such as research productivity, as indicated by the number of publications in international academic journals.

Daoudi also proposed changes to the university system based on semesters, and pledged to end confusion between masters degrees and diplomas from universities and to stop the current inflation in masters degrees.

Salem cautiously welcomed the new tuition fee policy. "Providing free higher education is generally a controversial topic as there is a great deal of disparity between countries’ education policies,” he told University World News.

While some countries offer completely free university education, in many countries students must pay to attend university, for which they may seek student loans or grants.

Morocco should encourage bright students to “freely seek higher education, as a university-educated populace is of great value for national economic growth as well as cultural and leadership development. Access to university must be merit-based not payment-based, even for financially disadvantaged individuals,” Salem stressed.

With a low participation rate in higher education, a low level of economic development and a high rate of graduate unemployment, Morocco should reconsider a tuition fee-based system “or at least implement it gradually in specific subjects and in parallel with the free system,” he suggested.

“Otherwise, Morocco needs to introduce a guaranteed, non-collateral, well administered student loan [scheme] to guarantee university access and participation to all, especially low-income students who are not able to pay upfront tuition, to defer the payments until they complete their degrees and get jobs.”

Salem said a performance-based promotion system for academics was a correct decision in terms of improving the quality of higher education.