A high pass on the examen d'etat secures university admission for a student. They must also pass the epreuve d'orientation which is an aptitude rather than an achievement test. Each region is allocated a quota of students who can enter universities to keep from creating one ethnic group that dominates the country. This is a quota system such as India, Tanzania, and other developing nations employ to ensure equal access and opportunity for all ethnic groups. Students meeting all requirements for admission to the university receive full scholarships from the government. Failing to meet all requirements denies a student scholarship aid, but if space is available they can pay to attend as long as they are qualified. It cost $70.00 a year in 1971.
All institutions of higher education fell under the supervision of one institution, the Universite Nationale du Democratic Republic de Congo, during the period between 1971 and 1981. Following 1981, each constituent institution within the university became autonomous. Two types of institutes resulted. Universities on the one hand and higher education institutes on the other hand. Each type of institution is defined by law. They have their own boards from business, government, and faculty senates. The Commissaire d'Etat a l'Enseignement Superior et Universitaire et a la Recherche Scientifique controls higher education in the DRC. Each university is headed by a rector, while institutes are headed by a director-general. Both have secretaries-general for academic and administrative affairs. Universities are divided into faculties and institutes into so-called sections. Faculties are headed by deans, while sections have section heads. Admissions standards are set by law, as are programs leading to academic degrees.
The Universite de Kinshasa has faculties of law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, science (including mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology), and economics. A polytechnic faculty teaches civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering. The Universite de Lubumbasi has faculties of law, medicine, arts and humanities, science, veterinary medicine, metallurgy, industrial chemistry, and mining. The Institut Facultaire des Sciences Agronomiques at Yangumbi trains agricultural engineers. Nineteen other institutes of higher education offer applied technology, building and public works, medical technology, commerce, information technology, statistics, agricultural technology, arts and crafts, rural development, social studies, and more. Fourteen institutes offer teacher training courses. Ten of these teacher training institutes offer two year training cycles. One teacher training institute is located in each region of the DRC. All of this began with a private Catholic university, the Universite Lovanium, and a public university, the Universite Officielle du Congo.
Before 1971 universities functioned independently, even though 80 percent of their funding was from the central government. Overseas organizations completely controlled these institutions. For example, the University of Louvain in Belgium controlled Lovanium. Belgian professors established the curriculum. Institutes of higher education on the other hand were locally controlled. Fear of foreign dominance ended this arrangement, and in 1971 all universities were nationalized. The Universite Nationale du Zaire was given control of all higher education for the next ten years. Following this period, universities were reorganized into specialized faculties with autonomy.
The conseil adminstrtif or administrative council, which is appointed by the president, controls the university on a day-to-day basis. The Ministry of Education retains the power to veto decisions that it disapproves of. The president appoints the rector, while heads of former university campuses, which are now autonomous, are headed by vice rectors. Chairpersons head institutes and can sit on administrative councils at their schools. The overall head is known as the director.
Instruction is based on the cours magistraux or lecture method, or by seminars in the upper or licence classes. Professors prepare lectures and seminars, while discussion sessions or travaux practiques are taught by graduate assistants who have their first degrees only. Due to shortages of funds, professors' notes are sold in lieu of books and assistants teach discussion sessions from such notes. Homework is also assigned based on these notes. In 1985, there were 40,878 university students in the DRC. By 1996, this number more than doubled to 93,266 students. Between 1971 and 1976 the number of professors increased from 1,335 to 2,010. The student to faculty ratio was 13:1, but if only qualified faculty are considered the ratio is 50:1. Only a tiny fraction of the population of the DRC has ever earned the privilege of a university education. The issue of providing high quality public service to a deserving public needs to be addressed squarely.
The licence or first university degree consists of two two-year programs. The first cycle is called the candidature. Successful completion enables a candidate to advance and compete for a licence, which takes two more years to earn. In the candidate's last year they prepare and defend a memoire de licence or senior thesis. After successful defense of this paper, they earn their licence.
In most universities, during the first stage of teacher training or graduat, students spend three years earning a gradue degree. Secretarial studies offered by the Institut Superieur de Commerce in Kinshasa leads to a capacitariat degree after a two-year course, plus practical work. All of these students write a thesis on the purpose of their studies as a culminating activity.
The second stage or licence lasts normally two years and leads to professional qualification in pharmacien, dentiste, ingenieur civil, ingenieur agronome, architecte, and so on. For medicine and veterinary medicine the course takes three years and leads to a degree of docteur en medicine or docteur en medecine veterinaire. To culminate studies at this stage, students write a dissertation which demonstrates their capacity for scientific research. The Universite de Kinshasa awards second stage diplome special en bibliotheconomie and diplome special en gestion de l'environnement.
The third stage is offered only through select faculties. It has two distinct levels: a two-year scientific and pedagogical course with a dissertation leading to a diplome d'etudes superieurs (DES); and a doctorat studies program for which a candidate must first earn a DES with distinction to enter. Doctorat candidates write an original high-level thesis, based upon unpublished research, which takes three to five years to complete. The faculty of veterinary medicine awards a agrege de l'enseigenement superieur en medicine veterinaire upon submission of an excellent thesis. Medical doctors earn a diplome de specialiste. If they wish to teach medicine, they prepare an agregation thesis. To do this they must first earn with distinction their diplome de specialise. There is then five more years of intensive study to earn a degree known as agrege de l'enseignement superieur en medicine.
Foreign students who want to come to the DRC must meet all entry requirements and have an excellent command of French. Most come with scholarships from their home governments or from the United Nations.
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