Tougher visa restrictions in EU present opportunity for Morocco's private institutions

January 19, 2007

Student numbers at Moroccan universities are growing as visa restrictions make enrolment at universities in France and the rest of Europe more difficult.

Many students who, on passing the baccalaureate, would previously have enrolled in a European university, most often in France, have been refused student visas and have turned increasingly to home-based private higher education institutions.

This academic year, Morocco's private higher education institutions have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of enrolments - as much as 30 per cent up on last year - as they have absorbed a larger than usual share of the 100,000 or so new school leavers.

Wrangling over government recognition of the private institutions has been settled with a new Higher Education Bill laid before the council of ministers.

The Government has acknowledged that private higher education in Morocco has become too significant to be ignored and the Bill is intended to help clean up the sector.

Habib Malki, the Minister of Education, believes that the private sector can help ease the burden on overcrowded public universities. But he believes that they must first rid themselves of a lingering reputation for "malpractices".

Rewarding the best institutions by recognising their diplomas will constitute a positive first step, while accreditation will also help create market competition.

Once the Bill becomes law, private institutions seeking accreditation must submit an application in which they have to prove that they are financially viable, that they have appropriate infrastructure, that they employ qualified teaching staff for their programmes and, above all, that they "promote quality".

If an institution breaches its plan or changes its programme, it will run the risk of being struck off the accreditation list.

Old legislation prohibits private institutions from issuing official academic titles.

In the public sector, the LMD (Licence, Master, Doctorat) has been adopted from this academic year in the latest phase of reforms designed to allow Moroccan institutions to align their programmes more closely with those offered across the European Union.

Under the new proposals, private institutions will be granted the same national-degree awarding powers, putting an end to a long-standing public-sector monopoly.

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