Ministry sets out higher education, research priorities

Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, or MES, has announced five priorities for higher education and research – reform of the sector, university autonomy, employability of graduates, improving education provided by private institutions and increasing efficiency in the use of research facilities.

Like other ministries, the MES was marking the first 100 days of the government by making known its strategy for the period 2015-25, reported La Presse of Tunis.

On reform of the sector, the ministry recalled that there was already a project underway, and the immediate plan was to open a social dialogue involving all interested parties and focusing on the interests of students, who were at the centre of the reform.

An awareness campaign would be widened to include representatives of the socio-economic community, civil society, students, teachers, professionals, associations and ministries, reported La Presse.

It would culminate in a national conference to examine all the suggestions and produce a final report for presidential endorsement. No dates were given for the process.

Regarding the second priority, university autonomy, the ministry’s aim would be to find practical solutions to give institutions more flexibility, as at present bureaucratic obstacles impeded their efficiency in management and research, reported La Presse.

The MES would take urgent measures to decentralise decision-making and transfer to universities certain responsibilities currently undertaken by central government.

Thirdly, the problem of jobless university graduates – who were contributing to the unemployment crisis – continued to be a major preoccupation, said La Presse. The MES had a plan to improve graduates’ chances of finding jobs by introducing training and preparation programmes, leading to a certificate, in five centres.

In order to improve quality in private higher education institutions the MES intended to increase its control over them and revise the remit they must follow, reported La Presse. It noted that private institutions had boomed in recent years, attracting many students, both Tunisian and foreign, especially from other African countries.

It was important for the ministry to take measures to raise the quality of private education and devote resources so it could compete with public education, said La Presse, which added that the refusal of engineering students to accept conditions for delivery of their degrees by private institutions had figured in the current debate.

Finally, the MES would pay attention to improving efficiency in the use of heavy equipment intended for scientific research. According to the ministry these facilities were under-used and badly maintained, and it proposed setting up a database to streamline operations, reported La Presse.

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