ALGIERS—Changes that will ease admission requirements for master’s degree and doctoral programs at Algerian universities have drawn heavy criticism.
A government decision that was issued late last summer offered all students the opportunity to enroll in master’s degree programs without any grade requirements for their bachelor’s degree courses. The new rules also canceled the requirement of high grades for doctoral programs, shifting to the use of an entrance exam to screen applicants.
The proponents of the change believe that the decision, issued by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, provides an opportunity for more students to develop their knowledge.
“The decision has an organizational goal and reflects the government’s desire to open and generalize opportunities for academic development for all students,” said Boualem Saidani, director of higher training at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. He said the majority of critics focused on this change and did not notice other important changes that would reduce the time for finishing a doctoral thesis from seven to five years.
“It is not correct to cherry-pick reading the changes this way,” he added. “These are necessary adjustments for the development of the education system and achieving equality for all.”
Concerns About Decision’s Effects
But many critics see the decision as unfair and accuse the government of hurting high-achieving students. A large proportion of Algerian graduates who have advanced degrees are unemployed and critics fear that proportion could go up if the quality of graduates goes down.
Last year, students working toward master’s degrees and doctorates protested in front of the Ministry of Higher Education, demanding jobs at Algerian universities. This year, about 2,600 students are working toward doctoral degrees at Algerian universities, while the number of job open for them is less than 500, according to press statements by an independent organization representing Algerian students working on advanced degrees.
The rule change left Nabila Belouati, a management and economics student at Farhat Abbas University of Setif, in eastern Algeria, frustrated. “I used to study day and night to get the highest grades in the exams because I wanted to get a high average so I could complete my higher studies,” she said. “Now, that no longer matters, everyone can do it without any additional effort.”
Yaqoub Musailem, a political science student at Batna University1, in eastern Algeria, agrees that the decision is unfair to high-achieving students. The ministry, he said, is ignoring “the scientific merit achieved by its first ranked students, so that they are placed at the same level as the rest of the students.”
“The procedure seems to be a kind of democracy, but I am afraid that it will turn into a populist competition that allows unqualified students to pass.”Yamin Boudhan
A professor of media and public relations at the University of Mohamed Lamine Debaghine–Setif 2
Musailem does not like the idea of a test to be admitted to Ph.D. degree programs. “How do we guarantee the integrity of the entrance exam and the lack of favoritism to pass it?” he wondered.
Professors Resent Political Intrusion
Some professors sympathize with discouraged students. They agree that one of the decision’s negative aspects is that it will reduce the enthusiasm of high performing students.
“The procedure seems to be a kind of democracy, but I am afraid that it will turn into a populist competition that allows unqualified students to pass,” said Yamin Boudhan, a professor of media and public relations at the University of Mohamed Lamine Debaghine–Setif 2. “This will negatively affect the quality of the outputs of educational institutions.”
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Kamal Batouche, a professor of libraries and information at the Djilali Mehri University Complex in Constantine, says he regrets such political decisions.
“What the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has issued regarding the requirements for doctoral competitions is to strip postgraduate certificates of their scientific significance and reduce their academic level,” he said.
The current academic year in Algerian universities got off to a late start due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some students still hope the decision easing admission requirements for advanced degrees might be changed.
“I hope the decision will be reviewed quickly and that it will be recognized as a message of frustration for students,” said Nawara Ramzi, a student working toward a master’s degree in history at the University of Mohamed Lamine Debaghine–Setif 2. “It will push the majority of them to laziness as long as the door is open for everyone to join Ph.D. programs.”