A normal start to the new university year – after all

In the end, it will be an ordinary start to the new university year in Algeria, on 17 September. After the restrictions due to COVID-19 and some upheavals, distance education, the group rotational system and the safety measures against the pandemic have come to an end.

Even if certain disciplines could be taught at a distance, the system of teaching by rotational groups has been cancelled, while the number of teaching hours has been increased, from 8am to 6pm, including Saturdays.

More than 330,000 new students will swell the ranks of the university community, raising the total number of students to about two million – who will have to be supported by a sufficient number of teachers and adequate university structures to meet the demands of a quality education, as well as accommodation, restaurants and transport for them all – bearing in mind that higher education, like education in general, is free and totally paid for by the Algerian state.

However, the private sector is gradually finding its way, benefiting from the government’s opening up of the university sector since 2016. About 30 private university institutes have been authorised since then, mainly in foreign languages, management and marketing.

University for new technologies

But there should be movement in the future, especially following the announcement about the creation of a private university specialising in new technologies.

It is being launched by Belgacem Haba, the researcher who possesses more than 1,700 patents and who excelled in Silicon Valley, and who wants to repeat the American experience in Algeria, by establishing his university next to the technology centre of Sidi Abdallah, near Algiers.

So, the trend is towards new technologies and specialisations that, hitherto, have been neglected, or the importance of which has been reduced to simple subjects with no follow-up.

In addition, the government has supported Algerian researchers living abroad to develop scientific research in Algerian universities and ensure a quality education for researchers and students at the various university and research institutions on the cognitive and methodological levels.

This contribution will have a “positive” effect on the quality of research, studies and articles published nationally and internationally, and will improve their “clarity and visibility”, said Abdelbaki Benziane, the minister for higher education and scientific research, who added that his ministry was working “to associate Algerian researchers established abroad with working out training programmes for the new national schools of higher education, following the example of the national higher education schools of mathematics and of artificial intelligence, and soon the school of nanotechnology”.

Algeria’s universities, now celebrating 60 years of existence, have awarded more than five million degrees in that time.

At the country’s independence in 1962, there was only one university, that of Algiers, with two annexes, at Oran in the west and Constantine, in the east. The university consisted of 82 permanent teachers for 1,300 students while, today, there are 63,000 permanent teachers for 1,700,000 students.