Ministry launches e-masters degree project

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has launched an e-masters degree on an experimental basis in five universities as part of an attempt to address the challenge of high graduate unemployment.

The five universities are Algiers 1 and 3; Blida 2 – about 50 km south of the capital; Constantine 1 in the east; and Oran 1 in the west.

According to Samir Azzoug, writing in El Watan student newspaper, the move will assist graduates with licence degrees who are unable to find jobs, as well as many frustrated applicants who failed to secure entry to programmes through the ordinary masters selection process.

The project is being led by the Faculty of Economic Sciences at Algiers University 3 which has this year offered an e-masters degree in accountancy. According to the faculty dean, Professor Athmane Lakhlef, the decision to start with accountancy was in response to the high demand for accountancy qualifications.

More study opportunities

"Every year we receive up to 10,000 applicants but we can only accept 2,500 and the rest are left to frustration and disarray. So, the e-masters option is an opportunity for those who have failed to gain access," he said. The new concept also offers possibilities for those who cannot be present physically or those 30% of enrolled students who have jobs which they have to combine with their studies, said Lakhlef.

However, even with the introduction of the e-masters, demand from students cannot easily be met.

The launch of the new e-masters in accountancy for 2016-17 attracted approximately 4,000 applications but only 1,000 were successful owing to the limited capacity of the platform, according to Mourad Ait Mohamed, who oversees the licence-masters-doctorate programme in the accounting faculty at Algiers 3.

The next step, he said, would be to provide a personal account for each student who pays an amount of DZD10,000 (US$90) which gives him or her access to all elements available on the platform, including courses, exams and tutors.

At the Mentouri Brothers University of Constantine, an e-masters degree in local administration has been made available. According to University President Professor Abdelhamid Djakoune, the choice of discipline around which to launch the programme was influenced by the high demand for administrative skills following the decision by Algerian authorities to implement e-administration and e-local governance.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Interior and Local Government has adopted a policy to remove overly bureaucratic practices and set up modern management techniques, he said.

"We have received 1,200 applications and we intend to accept only half of them," Djakoune said.

Djakoune said his university has consistently opted for pragmatism and has made professional training its main focus.

Labour market alignment

"Our university has developed an approach that consists of creating a new university space which is in direct alignment with the economic environment and labour market requirements," he said.

At Oran and Ahmed Benbella universities, the e-masters project has been adopted in the discipline of the didactics and pedagogy of Arabic.

A total of 40 students are enrolled, but that number can extend to 300 or even 400 students if the course is successful, according to Professor Morsli Laaredj.

Describing the e-masters as an "excellent idea", 40-year-old working student Houari Belami said : "We no longer need permission from our employers to study [on site]. This concept will enable me to consolidate my licence degree with another masters degree."

According to Said Mekaoui, a professor of economics at Algiers University 2, the e-masters will open up new opportunities for workers to upgrade their academic knowledge and subsequently get promoted. More importantly, he said, it will enable the country to improve its efficiency and help it to move away from all sorts of bureaucracy, incompetence and mismanagement that have been sources of obstruction for the development of Algeria.