The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Libya has closed 20 private colleges and universities in various parts of the country for failing to meet academic standards.
All academic certificates granted by these institutions will be reviewed, the ministry said in a statement posted on its Facebook page, and the institutions will be unable to enroll new students for the next academic year until the ministry renews their licenses. Some 2,250 students affected by the decision will be transferred to other universities.
The ministry acted on the recommendation of a committee formed of university presidents and teaching staff. Its chairman, Faraj Ali Abu Sha’ala, the president of Misurata University, explained in a telephone interview that all of the closed institutions “do not meet the required quality standards, in addition to a general weakness in educational outcomes.”
The committee made field visits to private universities across the country to assess their work before submitting its recommendations to the Minister of Higher Education. (See a related article, “A Regional Survey: How Arab Countries Regulate Quality in Higher Education.”)
In addition to the students, 483 teaching staff have been affected by the decision, at a time when academic life in Libyan universities has been suspended due to the increase in the rate of Covid-19 infections. (See a related article, “Libya’s Universities Close Again Due to Covid-19.”)
“This is an unfair and incorrect decision,” said Laila Dakheel, a third-year student at the Faculty of Pharmacy at Qurina International University of Medical Sciences, in Benghazi, one of the institutions that has been closed.
“Why did they allow the university to accept students and graduate many batches in the past, while they are now deciding to close them without considering our interests or thinking about our future?”Laila Dakheel
A third-year student at the Faculty of Pharmacy at the Qurina International University of Medical Sciences in Benghazi
There are 19 private universities in Libya but only seven of them obtained accreditation from the National Center for Quality Assurance and Accreditation, which last year issued a guide to classify universities using criteria related to conducting research, educational performance and presence in the international rankings, in addition to the scientific impact on the local community and web development. (See a related article, “To Bolster University Quality, Libya Creates Local Rankings.”)
Private universities usually obtain a license from the Department of Private Education of the Ministry of Higher Education, and the certificates they award do not have the same authority as those from state universities.
Effects on Students
Dakheel believes that it is impossible to move to another college or university, especially as the exam date approaches and payment of a new set of tuition fees will be required. “Why did they allow the university to accept students and graduate many batches in the past, while they are now deciding to close them without considering our interests or thinking about our future?” she asked.
Jamal Za’am, a junior student at the Faculty of Medicine at Al Awael University, in Tobruk, agreed. “The ministry is supposed to support private universities, rather than obstruct them. We have abandoned the public education because of the weak educational process. I think the difference in curricula is clear and there is no room for comparison between our university and public universities in terms of the quality of education, so why the decision to close it?” he said.
“Most of the students are in final academic years, and the closure decision affects their psychological, as well as financial status, as they have paid material fees to the private universities that have been closed.”Walid bin Qashout
President of the Students Organization of Private Higher Education
Walid bin Qashout, the president of the Students Organization of Private Higher Education, a nongovernmental organization that deals with private university students, believes that the harm to students will be great. “Most of the students are in final academic years, and the closure decision affects their psychological, as well as financial status, as they have paid material fees to the private universities that have been closed,” he said.
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Qashout proposed a new vision for the management of private education in Libya through establishing a higher council for private universities and unifying all universities into one university with multiple branches. “This is the solution to control the rapid increase in unaccredited, low-level private universities that produce unemployed graduates,” he said.