Since Algeria won its independence in 1962, the country’s higher education system has witnessed significant expansion and development. A panel of academics and policy makers recently reflected on the sector’s progress and the opportunities and challenges ahead on issues of administration, innovation, language and jobs.
The discussion took place in a webinar organised by the London School of Economics and Political Sciences’ Middle East Centre and its Society for Algerian Studies under the theme “60 Years of Higher Education in Algeria: Achievements, Challenges and Opportunities”.
Despite the challenges, speakers agreed that Algeria has made tremendous strides in education at all levels in the past 60 years. Before independence, only 30 percent of students in the secondary schools and 10 percent of those at universities were native Algerians. Today, the Algerian higher education system has over 1.7 million students and over 130 higher-education institutions, which include universities, institutes of higher studies and national schools.
Mounir Khaled Berrah, a professor of engineering at the Ecole Nationale Polytechnique, in Algiers, and a former secretary-general of the Algerian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, noted that at independence, Algeria had only three higher-education institutions and fewer than 2,000 students, only 1 percent of whom were women.
“Since the 1960s, we have produced 5.6 million graduates and we are currently producing 370,000 graduates per year,” he said. “By gender, 64 percent of our students are women.”
A Complex Language Map
Two-thirds of Algeria’s higher-education students are in humanities and social sciences disciplines, and one-third are in science, technology, and medical sciences, Berrah said.
But the question of which language they are taught in is a matter of academic and political debate.
Hayat Messekher, a professor of English at the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Bouzaréah (Algiers), explained that Algeria has complex language map.