More students and universities – But underlying decay

Higher education in Morocco continues to attract an increasing number of students and new universities have opened. But a critic of government policies has highlighted problems including lack of teachers, stagnation of research, and reforms that have not been carried out.

Soumiya Benkhaldoun, deputy minister for higher education and scientific research, said the 2014-15 academic year had registered an increase of 47% in the number of students, of whom 24% were new enrolments, necessitating construction of 10 new universities providing 75,956 new places, and a rise of 13% in teaching staff, reported Libération of Casablanca.

But, said Libération, her figures did not reflect the reality of the decaying state of higher education, which it claimed was “an assessment with which everyone seems to agree”.

It quoted Mohammed Saïd Karrouk, professor of climatology at the University Hassan II in Casablanca, who told the paper: “The efforts made by the ministry are real and tangible, but they concern palliative measures aimed firstly at responding to immediate pressures and not to the priorities of the sector.”

For Karrouk, the problems are much bigger than the issues of infrastructure and facilities, said Libération.

“The deficiencies of the Moroccan university are numerous, beginning with that of replacements. Today, many institutions find themselves without teaching staff because they are not replaced, and the ministry has done nothing to try to fill this gap,” he told the paper.

Another problem was scientific research, which the ministry had done nothing to stimulate, according to Karrouk.

“No motivation, no encouragement. Teacher-researchers are treated on an equal footing with those who have never signed a single scientific article, with the same salary and the same professional promotion prospects,” he said.

His criticisms echoed the findings of the official body overseeing higher education, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Enseignement or CSE, which a few years ago highlighted inadequacies in the national system of scientific research.

These included weak research results regarding productivity and innovation, slow adaptation to socio-economic, scientific and technological developments, and a university environment that was little suited to research and innovation, said Libération.

Worse, the recommendations proposed at the time by the CSE had either never been implemented, or implemented only feebly.

The recommendations included creating links between universities, internal and external evaluation of research, upgrading of research and development, involvement of the private sector in funding facilities and equipment, and standardised organisation of scientific and technical research.

For Karrouk, the situation of Moroccan universities remained problematic in spite of the succession of reform measures, reported Libération.

And the state of affairs risked getting worse with the introduction of the third generation of LMD – licence-master-doctorat – the system based on the Bologna process of three, five and eight years’ higher education.

“The teachers’ task will be complicated further with the new configuration of LMD because the number of teaching hours will be 50, or three hours a week for an individual teacher. So I leave you to imagine what could be the quality of the courses given in the overcrowded lecture halls.

“Of course it will be the students who’ll suffer the consequences,” Karrouk told Libération.

He concluded that the problem of higher education in Morocco required a long-term vision that was more important than political divisions, especially as it primarily concerned the future of the nation, reported Libération.

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