Education unions reject new university law

Higher education unions in Senegal have condemned the new framework law for universities passed on 26 December, which they say violates institutions’ freedom.

The aim of the new law was to harmonise the organisation and operation of universities and to promote a partnership between universities and business, reported Sud Quotidien of Dakar.

The legislation laid down that at each university there should be an administrative board selected by the minister, and an academic board. The minister would also appoint the directors of universities.

The unions’ objections principally concern lack of consultation and the new administrative board.

Multiple objections

Seydi Ababacar Ndiaye, secretary general of the Syndicat Autonome de l’Enseignement Supérieur, or SAES, said the legislation had not been presented for consideration to the deliberative bodies of universities, which should have had the opportunity to make amendments, reported Agence de Presse Sénégalaise, or APS, of Dakar.

Ndiaye said the requirement of the law to set up an administrative board presented a problem “not only in its composition, but the method of appointing members who are from outside the university”.

Under the new law the board would have 20 members including 10 from outside the university, which SAES criticised for restricting the rights of the academic staff, reported APS.

As part of the union’s action plan, SAES members organised a three-day stoppage, revealed Sud Quotidien. They also held a peaceful demonstration against the law, the publication reported.

The higher education sector of the Syndicat Unitaire et Démocratique des Enseignants du Sénégal, or SUDES, also denounced the new law and the lack of consultation, and demanded that the board of administration should be composed differently, reported Le Soleil of Dakar.

At a press conference the union’s leaders said the law “endangers the Senegalese university as much by the process of its drawing up as by its content which removes all autonomy and leads to de facto privatisation”, reported Le Soleil.

Stepping up action

SUDES representative Professor Omar Dia said the effects of the exceptional crisis last year continued to delay the start of the academic year in most higher education institutions in the country.

He said the law was inopportune because it created discord at a time when there was a need to find harmony between the actors in the system.

Dia said SUDES would step up its action against the law that “threatens the existence of public universities. It is clear the teachers’ unions do not hold the same position as the authorities,” reported Sud Quotidien.

Firmly rejecting the law, the union called on the government to “take every useful initiative to safeguard the definition of an instrument of governance guaranteeing the autonomy of universities within a joint framework”.

Earlier, Higher Education and Research Ministry spokesperson Babacar Guèye said it was prepared to reconsider the new law’s “methods of application”, where there were some “malfunctions”, reported APS. But he said the ministry would not renege on the issue of the administrative board.

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