The academic year at universities in Algeria kicked off on September 15 in a climate of uncertainty and confusion.
Faculties and departments are scrambling to reschedule examinations and administrative formalities that were forcibly postponed last spring due to the nationwide protest movement, the hirak.
Thousands of students in Algerian universities marched this week for the 32nd consecutive week, in support of the popular movement for democratic reform of government, and demanding improvement of conditions at Algerian universities. (See a related article, “Algeria’s Student Strikes Put the Current Academic Year at Risk.”)
But as a result of the confusion on campuses, some students are taking exams they didn’t get a chance to take last spring; new students are trying to start the fall semester, and some students are waiting to hear if they passed exams they took in the spring, due to an administrative delay in releasing exam results. The start of new Ph.D. programs has been disrupted.
“We met new students to help guide them through the registration procedures,” said Amir Amoush, a student union leader, “but encountered frequent problems with the university administration, because of incomplete admission arrangements, and because exams from the previous semester were taking place.”
The scrambled academic calendar can be traced back to March 9, when hundreds of thousands of university students in Algiers played a major part in an anti-government demonstration, the largest that had been seen in the capital in decades. In response, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research abruptly decreed that the university spring vacation should begin the following day, March 10, instead of on the scheduled date of March 20, and that it would last for two weeks longer than usual.
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The sudden vacation was called “an apparent attempt to weaken student-led demonstrations” by Reuters, intended to discourage students from going to campus where they could organize.
Saleem Hajam, a law professor at the University of Oran, west of Algiers, said he would have preferred that new university admissions be delayed until after October 2019, in order to enable university faculties and students to complete the business of the previous year.