Minister presents budget and higher education plans

New regional universities, increased priority for research, and 800 extra student housing units for Senegal’s five public universities were among measures announced by Mary Teuw Niane, minister of higher education and research, in spite of a cut in next year’s budget.

Niane, who took over the ministry in November, was presenting his budget to the national assembly. He told deputes that the government was aiming to “rebalance and reestablish equity between the capital and the interior of the country, to widen university provision and to relieve Dakar for the benefit of the surrounding regions”, reported Agence de Presse Sénégalaise (APS).

The government was working in a methodical manner to “enable every young Senegalese, wherever they live, to have the same opportunities as all the others”, said Niane. The national consultation he had previously announced had “a role to play for the future of higher education because university management will be at the heart of the consultation”.

He told the national assembly that regional development centres were to be created and would administer higher education establishments, reported APS. With a student roll of 75,140 in 2011-12, the government had also decided to start a second University of Dakar, as well as having plans for a University at Sine-Saloum.

Professor Oumar Guèye, previously director of the Ecole Doctorale Physique, Chimie, Sciences de la Terre – the Doctoral School of Physics, Chemistry and Earth Science – had been appointed to coordinate the second University of Dakar, said Niane.

The University of Sine-Saloum would specialise in agriculture and related subjects.

Niane also said the Institute Supérieur d’Enseignement Professionnel at Thiès, which would offer two-year vocational diplomas, would launch with 300 students and eventually cater for 3,500 students.

He added that a virtual university would also be set up with the aim of mass distance education for up to 80,000 students, reported APS.

APS also reported Niane’s decision to give greater priority to research management at the ministry. “Efforts will be made…to organise research in the same way as within higher education. At the level of research a department will be created, and the National Centre of Scientific Research will be reactivated,” he announced.

“It’s an important matter for research. Senegal currently devotes 0.6% of GDP [to research] while the African Union asks us to make it 1%,” he said.

APS further reported Niane’s announcement during the budget debate of the intention to build about 800 housing units at the country’s five public universities.

Half of them would be constructed at the University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, where there were violent student protests recently over demolition of student residences; and 100 each at the universities of Gaston Berger in Saint-Louis, Alioune Diop in Bambey, Thiès and Ziguinchor.

Niane announced his plans as the ministry’s fundinig was being reduced – the budget for 2013 is FCFA101.33 billion (US$200 million) compared with FCFA102.31 million in 2012.

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