(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Al-Fanar Media).
The current debates on higher education reform in Algeria are not without persistent and vital questions about the role of the university in nation building, change based on functional adaptation, and intelligent dealing with present problems and future challenges.
The more these challenges represent harbingers of risks resulting from an increasingly interconnected, complex and globalised world, the more their combined inputs produce opportunities to form more sustainable, diverse and efficient societies and help find mechanisms to neutralise and confront them.
Algerian universities constitute a pillar and comprehensive foundation for the national identity in its various cultural, social and economic components. From the pre-independence period to the present day, universities have constituted a more or less open public space for interactions that are increasingly tense and international, especially in light of the increasing interdependence among a network of international and informal actors, in the era of knowledge-based economy and digital globalisation, moving towards modeling the global economy, learning and teaching systems, and accumulating prerequisites for global citizenship.
“The increasing prominence of global rankings of universities has created an incentive for university competitiveness at the national level, shifting from a focus on quantity to perpetuating a culture of higher education quality assurance.”
Proceeding from the foregoing, we may ask, Are our universities equipped to build the future and t guarantee the development of institutional performance for all the society’s branches and energies? What will be the role of Algeria’s universities in light of a world shaped by the maxim, “Think globally, act locally”?
Our answer to these questions does not stem from academic principles or scientific methodology, but rather from a goal that seeks to inform public opinion, especially of the elites in positions of power or influence, of the roles entrusted to them and to persuade them to assume their full societal responsibilities.
Thus, an important aspect of our answers to these questions lies in three aspects: strengthening governance, involving universities in the dynamics of national economy, and creating an appropriate framework for an innovative, initiative university.
- Strengthen Governance
Governance is a management concept based on rationality, transparency and participation. There are several economic and political approaches to its development, and even moral approaches if we are talking about moral governance. But what concerns us in this regard is university governance.
Chronologically, governance in Algeria’s institutional and official higher education discourse started with the expanded national symposium of universities, and then moved to the social and economic sector. Since 2010, the governance of higher education and university services, and even the governance of student life, has become a concern of those in charge of the higher education sector.
“Future universities need to be smart and logical institutions as well, beyond the traditional focus on the university’s educational mission. They must be able to create the future, anticipate opportunities in it, and contribute to exporting those opportunities to communities, locally and internationally.”
In fact, this discourse coincided with talks about the generations of universities, according to specific ranking and evaluation indicators, as well as technological, institutional and reference requirements. The increasing prominence of global rankings of universities has created an incentive for university competitiveness at the national level, shifting from a focus on quantity to perpetuating a culture of higher education quality assurance. This has also increased the ambition to reform curricula to establish this culture.
University governance goes beyond institutional frameworks, to focus more on university administration ethics, establish rules of conduct that guarantee transparency, embrace moving towards an open university, rationalise governance, and guarantee the participation of various stakeholders.
- Involve Universities in the Dynamics of National Economy
Algerian universities include a large, diverse network of research centres, laboratories, and national preparatory and integrated higher schools. In addition to this quantitative development, there are efforts to strengthen the legislative approach and improve the efficiency of the regulatory framework, by reviewing the basic laws related to universities and the educational community.
In our estimation, greater efforts are needed in the dynamism of this approach based on the move towards knowledge-based universities. Future universities need to be smart and logical institutions as well, beyond the traditional focus on the university’s educational mission. They must be able to create the future, anticipate promising opportunities in it, and contribute to exporting those opportunities to communities, locally and internationally.
On the economic level, vigorous efforts can be made to deepen the university’s move to expand partnership frameworks with the economic and social environment. However, this approach seems difficult, given the limited trust between the two sides, and the lack of serious guarantees that preserve the rights of each party in this relatively new equation between them.
A large part of confidence-building tools depends on consolidation and legal governance, reliance on clear rules for resolving potential conflicts, and agreeing on a new pact for cooperation away from hegemony or supremacy.
- Move Towards an Innovation-Based University
“Algerian universities have a duty to create a collective awareness that brings together rather than differentiates, creates rather than destroys, ensures sustainable immunity for our society, and unites its energies to move strongly towards a socially secure and economically prosperous future.”
The innovative university constitutes a generation of future-focused universities that are able to benefit from the tools of technological globalisation and the knowledge society to create economies based on investment in modern technologies and employ them to support countries’ economic security and enhance their global competitiveness.
Hence, there is an urgent need to move towards innovation, consolidate it as a culture and practice, create a university for entrepreneurship, and support and encourage its members’ entrepreneurial action, especially in view of the amazing developments of artificial intelligence and bioengineering technologies that offer tremendous opportunities to create wealth, and sustain growth and its returns on the indicators of sustainable human development.
In conclusion, Algerian universities, in addition to their role in creating elites and in the governance of the economy, have a duty to create a collective awareness that brings together rather than differentiates, creates rather than destroys, ensures sustainable immunity for our society, and unites its energies to move strongly towards a socially secure and economically prosperous future.
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This inevitably passes through the university’s investment in its human capital, and a political will’s attention to the high management efficiencies available to some universities, away from centralised decision-making, in order to ensure professional academic practices on campus to defend the country’s security and guarantee a prosperous societal and economic future.
Rachid Messaoudi is a professor of public law at Mohamed El Bachir El Ibrahimi University, Bordj Bou Arréridj. You can contact him via email at [email protected].