Law students strike over selection to masters degrees
Protests, including strikes, started after it was announced that selection at entry to masters level studies had been adopted as part of the introduction of the ‘LMD’ (licence-master-doctorat) degree structure of three, five and eight years' higher studies based on the Bologna process, reported Walfadjri of Dakar.
A circular in February from the faculty dean, Professor Mamadou Badji, announced that from the 2015-16 year, only students fulfilling certain conditions would be authorised to enrol for a masters. These conditions were that students had to complete their licence (bachelor equivalent) in three or four years with an average score over the six semesters of at least 11/20; or in five years with a minimum average of 11.5/20.
Selected students could take either a masters research or masters professional course, with the professional stream expected to find a job immediately after graduation, while the research option would be reserved for elite students, reported Walfadjri.
The law and political students’ association protested against the justifications given for excluding some students from admission to masters level.
“Last year they took 1,486 masters students. This time, they have accepted only 820 and declined the other 256 on the pretext that they have not fulfilled the criteria,” complained the association’s Vice-president Serigne Ahmadou Sène.
The association rejected teachers’ arguments of excess student numbers and some students’ low level of achievement, reported Walfadjri.
“During the extraordinary faculty meeting called on the orders of the rector, he indicated that he could not touch the problem of standards. It’s paradoxical to raise this problem for a student who has been awarded a licence,” said Sène.
“In 2012, 7,000 students were allocated places in the faculty of law; it’s inconceivable that students should be educated and dismissed with a licence and with nowhere to go. The prior conditions have not been respected.”
Another member of the student association pointed out the contradiction that while teachers talked about the problem of student numbers, employees such as police and court clerks could pay for places on masters courses.
Association President Mansour Ndiaye referred to the LMD text, which said the only criterion for enrolling for a masters course was the acquisition of a licence or equivalent diploma. “The management cannot invoke other criteria,” he said.
It appeared the decision had been taken unilaterally, with no kind of preliminary agreement, said Walfadjri. The striking students insisted that any new criteria must be adopted by a meeting.
UCAD, Senegal’s leading university, was founded in 1957 on 50 hectares, and was intended to cater for 1,500 students. Today, estimates of student numbers range from 90,000 to more than 100,000, according to the Walfadjri feature by Pape Ndiaye and Mame Birame Wathie.
In the law and politics faculty, 7,600 students were enrolled in the first year of licence in 2016, split into two groups which struggled to fit into lecture halls that have limited capacity, said Walfadjri.
“If we have 14,000 students for an average of eight to 10 subjects a week, multiplied by two sessions, you can see the number of papers we have to correct,” law professor Mayatta Ndiaye Mbaye told Walfadjri.
“Today the higher education ministry is interested in placing everyone. We receive students in a setting where we cannot cater for all. This results in weak supervision.”
But, reported Walfadjri, these problems were nothing compared with those in the faculty of arts and human sciences, where 34,000 students were enrolled in 2016.
* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.