Private engineering schools told to ensure quality

Independent engineering schools in Tunisia are awaiting the introduction of new, tougher specifications that should ensure the quality of their diplomas is up to standard. But some are accusing the higher education ministry of deliberately impeding development of the private sector – although the move follows a strike by engineering students complaining that private schools are favoured.

Meanwhile Chiheb Bouden, the minister for higher education and scientific research, has announced reintroduction next year of a masters degree in nuclear engineering, following an agreement signed with three international nuclear energy organisations.

At the beginning of 2015 students in public engineering schools called a strike in protest against the “unjust draconian selection processes” and tougher standards that they claimed amounted to discrimination against them compared with students in private institutions.

In response, Bouden promised to make conditions such as admission criteria the same in public and private institutions, and introduce more rigorous controls over the independent sector.

Private sector assessment

The ministry began detailed inspections in five private institutions and monitored exams in 21 others, and ordered an assessment of the sector, reported La Presse of Tunis. The aim was to ascertain their existing educational capacity and the resources needed for future programmes to improve results.

The increase in controls annoyed managers of private institutions, reported La Presse, and some began a campaign against the ministry accusing it of wanting to obstruct their development.

The ministry denied the accusations, asserting that its aim was to bring some order to the sector and to maintain standards in private higher education institutions.

Following the check on degrees awarded by the private schools some were reinstated and some were not, reported La Presse.

The private sector was told to prepare programme contracts including their plans for the next three years for improving teacher-student ratios, updating equipment, organisation of internships and maintenance of premises, the newspaper report continued.

It said the higher education ministry was prepared to organise a workshop with private institutions to draw up the programme contracts.

Another complication, said La Presse, was that it was not only engineering education that was a problem – the same concern was also relevant to paramedical studies.

Nuclear masters

Meanwhile, Bouden announced that he was reintroducing a masters degree in nuclear engineering from the university year 2016-17, after a two-year gap, reported La Presse.

Bouden said his ministry had signed an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA, the French centre for nuclear studies and the Korean nuclear energy organisation, to give engineering students the opportunity to do their practical work from a distance, and to train high-level experts, reported La Presse.

Bouden recalled that Tunisia is a member of the IAEA and is interested in education in, and peaceful use of, nuclear energy in the areas of medicine, pharmaceuticals and agriculture.

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