A passing grade on the baccalauréat examination at the end of lycée, as well as an appropriate grade record and recommendations, is required for admission to one of Senegal's two universities, University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar and University Gaston Berger of Saint-Louis. The language of instruction is French, and the academic calendar runs from October to July.
University Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD, formerly named University of Dakar) is the flagship educational institution with several professional schools. About 23 research institutes are attached. The five faculties are: law and political science, medicine, science and technology, arts and humanities, and economics and management. Today it enrolls about 20,000 students, but in 1993 the university, designed for 5,000 students, encompassed about 30,000. The inflated numbers were brought about by academic years interrupted by student strikes, as well as other situations which created a large number of students who weren't finishing their studies. The university rector convinced the government of Senegal to declare the 1994 to 1995 academic year an année non validée. This in effect failed the entire student body. 7,000 students were ousted and the rest put on notice. The rector also tightened admission standards, lowering the number of students to a manageable level.
A World Bank grant has made a new library at UCAD possible. However, there are practically no funds for increasing or improving the collection. "Private" libraries run by individual departments or individual professors make inadequate attempts to compensate for the university's lack of resources. Student fees for tuition and room and board represent only a token payment, which some students manage to evade. Many students support life in Dakar by running businesses out of their dormitory rooms. It is said that the room and board charges aren't even enough to cover the cost of the electricity needed to carry out these businesses, such as telecenters or cafes.
The smaller of the two universities, University Gaston-Berger of Saint-Louis, was founded in 1990. It has a faculty of 89 and an enrollment of 2,157. The four teaching units are arts and social sciences, law, economics and management, and applied mathematics and computer science. A large number of Senegalese students get their higher education abroad, most in French-speaking countries, but about 540 are enrolled annually in the U.S.
Distance learning in the form of the African Virtual University (AVU) is available through both universities. Courses offered include management subjects, information technology, and English. In 2001, about 150 students were enrolled in AVU courses. There is no age limit to access higher education to the point where it is estimated that adults comprise at least 15 percent of the total enrollment of formal schooling.
The director of higher education has drafted an ambitious plan to create ten regional university centers, each focused on a local strength or industry. For example, agriculture and tourism are to be the focus in Casamance, fisheries in the north, and mining and industry in Tambacounda and Kaolack.
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