As the country grapples with high unemployment rates among graduates, the government is looking to reform Tunisia’s higher education system to improve standards and ties with private businesses. Tunisia recently rolled out a 10-year educational development plan known as the Strategic Plan for the Reform of Higher Education and Scientific Research 2015-25. The plan is based on five main objectives: improving the quality of teaching and thus the employability of new graduates; promoting research and innovation; fostering good governance and optimising resource management; reviewing university planning to ensure more balance between different regions; and developing teachers’ pedagogical training.
According to figures from the National Institute of Statistics, unemployment in Tunisia stood at 15% in 2014, while 30.9% of university graduates were unemployed. The government’s roadmap comprises a series of measures to improve the employability of young Tunisians, including the establishment of a new National Cooperation Institute aimed at ensuring all levels of the national education system are better aligned with demand in regards to scientific research and vocational training. New provisions will be introduced to enhance vocational training, such as the reintroduction of vocational programmes at the secondary level, as well as a vocational baccalaureate degree.
At the university level, the government is planning to set up a new system of career guidance that will better inform students with updated information on available academic programmes and related job prospects and the needs of the job market, as well as identify a range of professions with higher added value. In line with this, specific committees will be created within universities in order to readjust the content of academic programmes in keeping with changes in the job market. The plan also includes encouraging more cooperation programmes with foreign universities.
In order for private higher education to play a more significant role within Tunisia’s educational landscape, the government is working on overhauling standards and the legal framework in order to boost the creation and development of new private institutions while ensuring quality and compliance with international standards. As such, teacher recruitment will fall under the purview of national juries, and supervising agencies and bodies will be consolidated. The legal framework for public-private partnerships (PPPs) is also set to be reformed to better align the system with higher pedagogical and scientific standards. Furthermore, the government is planning to increase ties between the business community and universities via a new raft of measures, including a platform for technological exchanges in research and development, new incubators for small businesses, optimising cooperation between tech clusters and universities, and supporting the development of skills certification centres. The authorities also aim to create new Career Centres and offer Certification of Competencies to improve students’ prospects in the job market.
Another immediate priority for the government is a vigorous drive to boost scientific research and build a favourable framework for innovation. As such, the authorities are planning to establish a High Commission for Research Governance. National universities will be provided with international project management units in order to increase their capacity to handle international research programmes. The government will also reform the legal framework to encourage research-focused PPPs via research tax credits. Existing funding schemes will be redesigned with PPPs in mind. International mobility will also be promoted through new incentives. These plans also envisage more support for researchers in terms of patenting, with universities assuming registration fees and educating researchers on patent law.
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