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New Round of Protests Hits Algerian Universities

ALGIERS—A growing number of students are joining protest movements that have cascaded across Algeria’s universities since the start of the academic year.

Algeria’s universities have regularly been home to waves of unrest, among students, professors and even administrators since early 2000. The unrest, however, has grown stronger during the last four years and comes amid broader societal discontent concerning a range of issues.

“This discontent is based on social demands such as for housing, roads, access to water and gas,” said Ahmed Kateb, a professor at the country’s Higher National School of Journalism and Information Sciences. Students are taking advantage of the situation, he said, and hoping to obtain whatever gains they can through protests.

The protests are coming from students hoping to join professions as varied as psychiatry, nursing, and architecture. A key source of contention is a new degree structure put into place at some institutions. Many employers do not recognize the degrees, aggravating unemployment among university graduates.

At campuses across Algeria’s capital, students in departments of architecture have protested since November. The first demonstration—at the University of Constantine in the country’s eastern region—is now in its fifth week. Other protests kicked off in the provinces of Oran, in the west, and Biskra, Mostaghanem, Jijel and Setif.

Students object to the failure of the National Architects’ Association to recognize an LMD master’s degree, called a Master 2 that is part of a French system for higher education based on a License, Master’s and Doctorate degree structure. It was first implemented in some of the country’s universities in 2004.

The LMD system, which was “poorly prepared by authorities and misunderstood by students,” Kateb said. “This misunderstanding could lead to a disaster if the issue isn’t solved in a sustainable and lasting way.”

Officials at state-owned companies and the national employment agency in charge of the recruitment process for both the public and private sectors say that “there is no existing law that allows them to recognize this diploma,” according to a statement released to local media.

Other protests are aimed at more specific situations. On September 9, students in the psychiatry department at the Mouloud Mammeri University of Tizi-ouzou, about 100 kilometers east of the capital of Algiers, launched protests after the medical faculty’s dean decided to abolish 10 psychiatric residency positions.

The dean, according to protesting students, made the decision without “providing any argument or justification,” prompting students to take to the streets in outrage.

Students involved in the movement issued demands and denounced what they said was the university officials’ contempt regarding their claims. They said the number of residency positions over the last two years dropped from 129 to 113, despite students’ beliefs that there is room at the university for more positions. And they denounced the closure of several other training courses, such as endocrinology, the treatment of diabetes, rheumatology and functional rehabilitation.

Among the students’ complaints was the state off the medical school, which they describe as “a black spot.”

“We can only deplore the working conditions of teachers and students of the Faculty of Medicine: dilapidated rooms, relatively empty auditoriums, a cramped library and degraded toilet facilities,” striking students of the psychiatry department stated. The dean of the Mouloud Mammeri University of Tizi-ouzou did not respond to request for comment.


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