Plans for science-business city, and new university

Tunisia is planning to set up a science and business city including a ‘world university’ as part of its efforts to tackle higher education challenges, stem the brain drain, boost university-industry linkage and fight graduate unemployment.

The initiative was examined by a high commission of large-scale projects on 17 January, according to Agence Tunis Afrique Presse.

Three years after the 2011 revolution that ended decades of dictatorship and was among other things sparked by unemployment, there has been little change as joblessness – especially among graduates – remains a major concern, according to an August 2013 report in Tunis Times.

On average, 60,000 new graduates join the labour market every year but the public and private sectors are only able to hire half of them.

Science and business city

Located in Sfax, the science and business city will focus on helping businesses fund and develop commercial solutions to Tunisia's developmental challenges while also promoting graduate employment.

It will act as a ‘lighthouse’ scientific project, combining exchanges of scientific ideas and cooperative agreements well beyond institutional boundaries.

The city's policies will support the transfer of technology and knowledge to businesses and close connections between industry and science by promoting innovative projects, especially those combining research and business aspects. It will also provide favourable conditions for start-up companies.

A World University of Tunisia

Within the city, the World University of Tunisia will be created with the aim of producing industry-ready graduates as well as carrying out research in close cooperation with companies.

The university will act as a laboratory for new ideas to promote an innovation-based economy by establishing a range of companies, and will strive to produce graduates capable of developing new ideas and transforming those ideas into market-ready products.

It will also offer research expertise and technical solutions to businesses through consultancy, research collaboration and access to specialists, and will help companies to develop their own technologies and products and entrepreneurs to grow businesses with expertise and resources.

The new university will seek to tackle the problem of brain drain by encouraging Tunisian students to enrol locally rather than abroad, by providing quality higher education.

Official figures have highlighted the worrying scale of the brain drain among Tunisian graduates who study abroad. They indicate that the rate of student return after studies in foreign universities has been around 7% during the past five years.