Ministry unveils draft HE research strategy with SDG 4 focus

Libya has launched a 10-year national higher education and scientific research strategy spanning 2024 to 2034 that aims to reform education, teaching and scientific research within universities and research centres, and promote their role in achieving sustainable development via the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

As Libya continues to deal with the aftermath of the devastating floods in the coastal city of Derna on 12 September, the urgency of pursuing and achieving these goals has been highlighted.

The draft strategy was unveiled by the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Dr Omran Mohamed Algeeb, on 24 August, about three weeks before the Mediterranean storm Daniel hit the Derna area.

The strategy has become more pertinent as it notes: “The foundations of the higher education and scientific research strategy were laid by assessing the current situation of higher education and scientific research, taking into account the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with specific focus on education for sustainable development, which is an integral part of the SDGs and the fourth goal: Quality education – “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

Key approaches and policies

Some of the key approaches and policies proposed in the draft strategy aimed at developing scientific workforces capable of building knowledge economy and achieving sustainable development goals include reforming the higher education system to achieve independence and competitiveness and enhancing university access.

Others include facilitating a role for the private sector in providing high-quality learning services, linking promotion of university staff with performance-monitoring mechanisms, adopting intellectual property rights systems, and developing ethical-based scientific and technological research systems.

Implementation plan

Some of the key initiatives and projects proposed in the implementation plan for achieving key approaches and policies of the strategy include the creation of research centres of excellence along with academic and technical universities and the opening of foreign university branch campuses.

They also include establishing business incubators in faculties, setting up centres for innovation and artificial intelligence in universities and research centres and creating open platforms (such as massive open online courses or MOOCs) to involve learners in different fields.

The plan also sees the creation of a fund to provide opportunities for loan programmes for students to study locally and abroad.

In addition to legislation aimed at supporting and encouraging the private sector to establish universities for sustainable development, the implementation plan also makes mention of a fund to support research and innovation affiliated to the Libyan Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

Such fund will be resourced by the state (using taxes and zakat – an obligation in Islam that requires Muslims to give 2.5% of their wealth each year to those in need) and existing institutions and companies based on the principle of social responsibility.

Under the implementation plan, integrated electronic systems in various universities and research centres will be built to enhance the foundations and principles of good governance in spending to ensure transparency, disclosure, rule of law and responsiveness.

The implementation plan includes the development of programmes, platforms and databases to link graduates from universities and specialised researchers in research centres with workplaces and institutions to facilitate the finding of solutions to production-related obstacles and to provide the best competitive services.

The implementation plan also includes the creation of centres and universities of excellence specialising in priority areas aimed at boosting national development.

Awareness of SDGs

In addition, the implementation plan includes a comprehensive project to raise awareness of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and adopt methods to apply them in all areas of scientific research.

To compensate for the lack of statistical data and in-depth empirical studies on the national system of higher education and scientific research, the preparatory committee called upon experts to make a contribution to the further development of the strategy.

“It is a national duty for them [experts] to complete the deficiencies and address the negatives based on the fact that the strategy is a collective product and no individual or group can claim ownership of this strategy,” the document notes in its conclusion.

The strategy will be approved and implemented following the integration of experts’ opinions and its evaluation at a national conference for higher education and scientific research that will be held at the end of 2023.