- Morocco: Tailoring higher education to a region’s needs
Morocco: Tailoring higher education to a region’s needs
How a new multidisciplinary college in southern Morocco is boosting employment and socioeconomic development by matching human resource skills to the job market.
Watched over by the High Atlas Mountains, the Kingdom of Morocco is a land of stark contrasts, its stunning coastline, sweeping desert and lush oases home to a multitude of plant and animal species unique to Africa. It is no coincidence that the tourism industry is a major source of revenue here (accounting for some nine percent of GDP in 2011), with the number of tourists totaling 9.2 million in 2010.
Its popularity as a tourist destination notwithstanding, Morocco faces big development challenges, among them weaknesses in its higher education sector. Although the country has a population of over 32 million, official statistics show the number of students enrolled in tertiary education to have been just over 400,000 in 2004, the last year for which figures are known.
To bridge the gap, the government in 2009 launched a four-year US$1.7bn emergency plan to overhaul its education system, including the reform of university courses in an effort to boost the country’s science and technology workforce and promote knowledge-based sustainable development. The reforms seek to make significant headway in meeting some of Morocco’s Millennium Development Goals by the target date of 2015.
Professor and researcher, Dr Abdeljelil Bakri, from University Cadi Ayyad, Marakech, has welcomed the plan, indicating to University World News that it was “urgently needed to reform the country’s ailing higher educational system, foster a culture of entrepreneurship in the academic community and produce industry-ready graduates.”
The plan is being financed by the Ministries of National Education, Higher Education, Professional Training and Scientific Research, among others, along with partial support from grants and loans from international organizations, including the French Development Agency, the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, the European Commission and OFID.
Supporting reforms in higher education
As part of the proposal, the government expanded and decentralized the tertiary education infrastructure network. Consistent with this plan, OFID supported the “Taroudant Higher Education Project,” to facilitate access to higher education for those living in remote rural regions and thus reduce migration to the northern cities.
Built in 2010, Taroudant Poly-Disciplinary School was created with the aim of contributing to the development of the Souss-Massa-Draa Region, home to three million people or 11 percent of the total population, by providing education, research and development opportunities and reducing social problems (transport, accommodation and meals) for graduates of the provinces of Taroudant and Tata.
The new School, which is the first university in the region, is located in Taroudant City, the cultural capital of southern Morocco, also known as the grandmother of Marrakesh. Constructed on a 33-ha piece of land, it is a multidisciplinary higher education center with academic and scientific facilities as well as support services, and has a capacity of 3,500 students per year.
Surrounded by ancient ramparts typical of the Moroccan South, the School, which has been operational since 2010, was ranked ninth in the world among 17 international universities in a survey published by the American Magazine Travel & Leisure in September 2012. The magazine compiled a list of the most distinguished campuses worldwide in terms of avant-garde architecture, historically relevant design, and harmony with the environment. The faculty building is an amalgam of southern traditional architecture and futuristic design. Students of literature, human sciences, arts and crafts, science and technology, law, and economic and social sciences, have a splendid place to gain a better education.
OFID’s support to the project, in the form of a US$10 million loan, representing 83.3 percent of the total cost, is an endorsement of the goals of the Kingdom of Morocco and a reflection of OFID’s belief that education is key to achieving socio-economic development.
Nadia Benbouali, OFID operations officer in charge of Morocco’s projects, explained that given that about 21 percent of graduates typically suffer from unemployment, “the project intends to overcome this acute challenge by focusing on a diversified field of specialties that is in line with the requirements of the socio-economic potential of the region, thus linking closely skilled human resources to the labor market.”