Monitoring Quality in Arab Higher Education
The Ministry of National Education, Vocational Education, Higher Education and Scientific Research licenses most public and private higher educational institutions.
After licensing, the ministry conducts some follow-up checks on the quality of universities but the ministry plans to move to a more formal quality-assurance process. A new quality assurance and evaluation agency formed in 2014 is scheduled to conduct its first formal evaluations of universities next year.
Universities and public educational institutions are created by decrees, signed by the minister after consultation with the National Commission for the Coordination of Higher Education, an agency that provides advisory opinions on the establishment of universities. (A link to a description of the commission’s function is in French here and in Arabic here.) The accreditation of each institutional course is also subject to study by the National Commission. A text setting out the diplomas institutions can award is published in the ministry’s official bulletin.
In order to guarantee the quality of the growing number of higher education institutions, both in public higher education and in the private sector, the higher education ministry (Arabic link is here.) has put in place a framework for the authorization of higher-education institutions and the accreditation of their courses.
Private institutions need to file a great deal of paperwork and follow complicated procedures to open. Among the details they must provide:
- Proof that neither the owner nor the education director have a criminal record.
- A list of courses and the plan for each course.
- V.’s of professors, certified copies of their degrees, and personal declarations from each potential professor that they plan to teach at the institution
- Details on the number of classrooms and the capacity of each.
- Certification that the proportion of permanent professors will be 10 to 25 per cent of the total teaching staff.
Those who aspire to create any private higher-education institution need an opinion from the Commission for the Coordination of Private Higher Education on technical, educational and financial aspects, an opinion from the National Commission, and approval by the education minister. Their programs may then be accredited by the national government.
When all branches of a private institution are accredited, then the institution as a whole can apply for national recognition. Once this recognition is granted, then the private university’s diplomas must be signed by the president of a public university in the same region to be nationally recognized.
To avoid conflicts of interest, higher-education ministry officials and anyone else working with the government are, by law, prohibited from opening private institutions.
While private universities are seen by some government officials as a way to help the country meet the swelling number of university students, there is some skepticism about that goal. “The private sector has a long way to go before it can take any real strain off the public universities: for now it seems primarily to cream off the rich and able, in yet another manifestation of educational separatism,” wrote Martin Rose, the former country director for the British Council, in the Moroccan entry in the book “Education in the Arab World.” (Bloomsbury). “An official at the Ecole de Gouvernance et d’Economie, another elite institution of special status, comments drily that “the government is unable to introduce changes in the public system, so it has been compelled to find another solution. It’s easier to start small, new universities than to reform the big ones.”
Most public vocational training is the responsibility of the Office of Vocational Education and Promotion of Work. Many companies also set up their own private vocational training programs because they want programs adapted to their specific needs.
The higher-education ministry does some follow up monitoring of the quality of public and private universities. Since 2003, committees set up by the ministry have done evaluations of public universities and since 2009 similar committees have evaluated private institutions. Results of these evaluations are submitted to the National Commission and then the education minister makes a final decision on whether the programs will continue to be accredited.
For private institutions, designated staff from the ministry do spot-checks of the institution’s buildings; and selected professors from public universities near the private universities evaluate their teaching and course content. The ministry also checks annual reports of the courses taught, number of registered students, the success rate of students, and the number of professors and whether that number conforms to the one initially submitted. The ministry has the authority to withdraw licenses and close educational institutions if they don’t provide quality education or if they don’t comply with the goals that they set out initially. The ministry has closed some higher-education institutions that have not met quality standards.
Similarly, the ministry follows up annually on public universities, checking on similar factors that are checked for private universities. The results of these annual inspections also determine the annual budget for each university. Some universities have also conducted independent evaluations of themselves in the context of international cooperation programs.
The country is moving toward even more formal evaluation of the quality of higher education. In 2014, National Agency for Evaluation and Quality Assurance of Higher Education and Scientific Research (Arabic link is here.) was created under a law adopted by Parliament with the goal of improving and ensuring the quality, competitiveness and diversity of higher education, promoting scientific research and adapting training to market needs.
The agency has not done an institutional evaluation yet. It is in the process of setting up a reference manual for institutional evaluation. It plans to run an evaluation pilot of two or three universities next year. Once it is up and running, the agency will conduct different private and public institutional evaluations of universities, the structure of scientific research programs, and university cooperation programs.
In terms of the numbers of higher educational institutions in Morocco:
- The kingdom has 13 public universities with 123 campuses. A couple of universities have an unusual status. The University of Al Quaraouiyine is run by the Ministry of Habbous and Religious Affairs. Al Akhawayn University, is privately run, but publicly owned.
- The kingdom has five private universities (with 21 campuses) and 147 institutions in total as of 2016-2017.
- There are a total of 1,964 vocational and technical institutions in Morocco: 527 of them are public, of which 356 are supervised by the Office of Vocational Education and the Promotion of Work.
- There are 67 specialised higher education institutions not belonging to universities that mirror the French system of Grandes Écoles for the training of executives.
- Five universities and institutions have been set up as partnerships and non-profit foundations created within the policy framework of the planned internationalization of Moroccan higher education. These universities and institutions are under the authority of the Ministry of National Education, Vocational Education, Higher Education and Scientific Research.