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Algeria - Higher Education

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceAlgeria - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


Universities are organized into institutes, each of which coordinates several departments. National institutes of higher education, though smaller than the universities, offer degrees in a variety of fields. The engineering schools (grandes écoles) include polytechnic, veterinary medicine, architecture and urbanization, agriculture, information, telecommunications, and ocean science. Teachers colleges train teachers for both general and technical secondary schools.

Only the University of Algers predates independence. Founded in 1879 on the French model, it stressed autonomy for the university faculty including designing curricula. The system was unwieldy, with duplication of academic offerings and the complete loss of credits by students changing programs. Not until 1946 did the first Algerian students begin attending the University of Algers, and in 1959, only 600 Algerian students (13 percent of all the university students) were in attendance. Independence in 1962 found university attendance still low, numbering only 2,200 Algerians (from the population of 12 million). Attrition was very high.

The massive influx of students following independence led to the large-scale establishment of universities, university centers, and colleges. Within four years, in 1966, there were six universities, two universities of science and technology, five university centers, one agronomic institute, one veterinary institute, one telecommunications institute, one school of architecture and town planning, and one École Normale Superiéure. Enrollment numbered 160,000 students, with 7,947 academic staff. Additional universities were created and the system was reformed in 1971, with major reforms following in 1988. The universities loosely resemble the French model.

By 2000, enrollment in higher education climbed to 298,767 with 20,026 teachers. The number of universities has risen to nine plus two universities of science and technology, four university centers, and 12 colleges and institutes each coordinating several departments. There is a heavy emphasis on engineering institutes and "hard sciences." The academic year is from September to June. Although the central government coordinates the activities of the institutions, they have a fair degree of autonomy.

The reforms of 1985-1986 were intended to channel higher education students into vocational specializations and exact sciences, or into experimental and human sciences, as such subjects traditionally are nonpolitical. Subjects such as chemistry, biochemistry, and industrial chemistry were to be introduced. The basis for the plan, at least in part, was the perceived requirements of the country in terms of developing industry, agriculture, and the administration, as well as to "form distinguished individuals proud of their cultural heritage, their attempts to change their reality, and their contributions to their country."

The political-religious conflict in Algeria is played out in higher education. When the wave of nationalism of the 1960s and 1970s waned, Islamism took its place. Islamic fundamentalists reigned freely on university campuses in the 1980s. In 2000, Islamic fundamentalists existed as a weakened underground movement on the campuses. They have since been banned from these schools.

In 1987, student riots in Constantine and Setif led to the realization that four main university towns—Algiers, Oran, Constantine, and Annaba—hosted 76 percent of the students in higher education. Efforts were made to find ways of decreasing such large concentrations of students.

After the cancellation of the state elections in 1992, protests by the militants quickly spread to university campuses. Low-level violence started in 1992 (usually arson) and escalated dramatically in succeeding years. The violence resulted in a mass exodus of academics from the country, especially in 1994–1995. Between 1992 and 1997, nearly 1,000 academics fled Algeria and settled in France. Many more tried but failed to secure French visas.

Academics have been the victims of assassination since 1992. Faculty members are not the only targets. Rectors and students have been killed, and female students are threatened. One report states that in 1994, by official count, there were more than 2,725 acts of terrorism, more than 80 teachers assassinated, and more than 600 schools, three university centers, and nine training institutes burned down or blown up. Other victims include Communist Party members, socialists, left-wing secularists, academic and intellectual defenders of cultural freedom, academics and scholars who run research centers or who hold government positions, academics known for their fundamentalist Islamic beliefs, and foreigners.

By some accounts, the toll of violence has reached 40,000 to 50,000 victims. The assassinations are reported to be part of the strategy of Islamic fundamentalists to deter peace efforts and, in the case of foreigners, deter foreign investment. In addition to the assassinations, increasing violations of university freedoms originate from a number of sectors. Police come on campus and arrest fundamentalist teachers and staff and people professing opposition to dictatorship and other "unpopular" views. Fundamentalists pressure teachers at all levels with threats (especially foreign-language teachers) to quit teaching. Faculty members are reportedly losing control over their syllabi and careers as well as promotion standards. The Teacher Training Institute library in Algiers was turned into a prayer room, thereby forcing an end to the debates and cultural activities previously held there. University officials are pressured to separate males and females in cafeterias. "Nosey Parkers" (universitycreated security forces) harass students, thwart trade union organizing among faculty, and systematically encroach on union free speech and right of assembly. Universities interfere in the bar exam registrations by providing special dispensations to matriculate without taking the examination.

Universities are characterized by huge classes, aging equipment, out-of-date materials, equipment shortages, inadequate supervisors, and diminishing faculty control. The Arabization that already occurred in the social and human sciences reached the exact sciences in 1997. Without Arabic books and instructional materials, such as software, keyboards, and publications, and given a lack of Arabic-speaking teachers, instruction suffers. Access to the science and technology of western cultures is restricted by language limitations. Poor working conditions, inflation-eroded salaries and poor housing led teachers, professors, and assistants in Oran to strike in 1997, a strike that immediately spread to other universities.

Complementary Education: Some complementary education is found at the foreign cultural centers, where language instruction is available, such as English (Centre Culturel Britannique et Centre Culturel Américan) and French (Centre Culturel Français). With one-third of Algeria's postgraduate students studying abroad in 1992, bilingualism remains a crucial asset. Libraries and documentation services at these centers are frequented and solicited by students who find the public and university libraries, as well as the bookstores, insufficient. Other activities at these centers (not so heavily frequented) include painting, photography, music, theater, and more.

Libraries: Major libraries in Algiers include the University of Algiers library containing 800,000 volumes; the National Library housing 950,000 volumes, with special collections including Africa and the Maghreb; the National Archives of Algeria; and the Department for the Distribution of Scientific and Technical Information at the French Cultural Center in Algiers. A Municipal Library containing 25,000 volumes is located in Constantine. Library holdings at universities include Batna (55,000 volumes), Mentouri (240,000 volumes), D'Oran Es-Senia (200,000 volumes), and Abou Bekr Belkaid (Tlemcen: 66,000 volumes). The university center at Mostaganem holds 75,000 volumes and a number of colleges hold modest collections, as do museums and art galleries.

It is difficult to assess the library resources, given that budget restrictions reportedly have forced many to curtail periodical subscriptions. Semiannually, the National Library issues the national bibliography. Separate lists of periodicals are not issued, nor are lists of periodical articles. The National Library is open eight hours a day. There are three library science institutes and one center that provide special training in scientific and technical information.

Some cultural centers are developing children's libraries. Student use of libraries in cultural centers is high. In Oran, Algiers, and Constantine, there are an estimated 50 readers for every reading location. School libraries are poor or nonexistent. No specific budget is allocated to libraries in Algerian schools. Few public libraries have children's sections, as loaning books to children is unlikely. There are no specialized bookshops for children's literature; few keep a section for children's reading. No publishing house specializes in this field. There is no listing of Algerian writers of children's books or systematic advertisement of children's books.

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