Government pushes university-industry ‘cluster’ plan
"The long-term strategy is to combine and gather specialties in harmony with available potential and means in the environment," said Noureddine Ghouali, director general of teaching in the higher education ministry.
"We no longer have the right to open training without yield or prospects," he said in reference to the high unemployment rate among graduates in Algeria.
Ghouali said presently there are over 6,000 licence (bachelor degree) specialities in the country – a number that reflects what he calls the "discrepancy between university training and the economy’s needs".
‘Regrouping’ of disciplines
Ghouali said the discipline of political science would be the first speciality to be subject in September 2017 to a 'regrouping' procedure.
"Today, in the country there are 36 training points in political science. That is enormous while the needs are not of such magnitude and that is why we are not going to train political science graduates everywhere.
"Our intention is to bring together universities, scientific research establishments and economic actors in the same specialty. We are moving towards pooling of resources and regrouping of training to meet social and economic sector needs," he said.
"Employability of graduates, professional integration and internships for students are key elements of our new policy," said Ghouali.
"The higher education ministry plans to set up clusters or centres of excellence that involve concentrations of firms and institutions specialised in crucial fields such as management, health and medicine, communication technologies, computing and artificial intelligence, civil and industrial engineering, aeronautics and operational research."
The creation of new centres of excellence based on partnerships between industry and universities is a step in the right direction, said Ghouali.
Already in the Mitija region on the outskirts of Algiers, two institutes have been launched: one specialising in agriculture and food technology and the second focusing on vocational training for the plastics industry, in cooperation with industrialists of the region.
Another important centre of excellence organised around electronics and household appliances has been set up between Sétif and Bordj Bou Arréridj, in the east of the country, and universities in both cities are partners with local companies.
The new plan is a direct attempt to curb the rising tide of graduate unemployment in the country and boost the performance of Algerian universities in global rankings.
According to Farid Cherbal, a member of the national council of teachers, Algerian university have become machines to produce "failure and unemployment".
"Universities in Algeria have lost their universal function to produce knowledge, transmit and implement it," said Cherbal.
According to statistics released by the ministry of higher education, over 120,000 graduates leave university without having the necessary requirements to enable them to get a job and only 12% succeed in securing jobs.
According to Majid Makedhi from a local newspaper El Watan, these figures are the result of poor quality of education and a lack of supervision in universities.
Makedhi however remains optimistic about the future of the higher education sector and endorsed the idea of a partnership between industry and academia.
"It is possible to tap the formidable potential that universities conceal provided we put university at the heart of the city and make it regain its noble mission of knowledge generation, but also with the support of the economic productive sector for its implementation," he said.
There has been massive growth in the tertiary education sector. According to government sources, over 25% of the gross national product has been allocated on a fairly regular basis to different levels of the education sector. Presently, 8 million pupils are enrolled at schools and colleges whereas 1.6 million are studying at universities and this number is expected to increase to 2.5 million by 2025.
Throughout the 48 districts or wilayas of the country there are 92 higher education institutions, some of which have national university status while others are either national high schools or university centres.
In addition over 1,000 research units and laboratories are operating and 55,000 university teachers have so far contributed to the graduation of 2 million students, according to government statistics. In spite of these figures and despite several reforms, they have not yielded positive results, according to Professor Zineddine Berouche from the University of Sétif.
Algerian universities, he observes, are still lagging behind in the universities' ranking system, both in Africa and the world.
"It is not rewarding at all. This situation is the result of reforms which were badly thought through and totally misapplied on the ground," he said.