Rabat - Moroccan universities have been witnessing recently a ruthless competition among their own departments, research units and professional training programs as well as among these and their counterparts in other universities.
Rabat – Moroccan universities have been witnessing recently a ruthless competition among their own departments, research units and professional training programs as well as among these and their counterparts in other universities.
Some training offers seem to be so unnatural especially when it avers that whole graduate programs are at times staffed by individuals who may be highly competent in their fields but not as much in others they are in charge of. In some cases, and this needs to be further documented, some courses have been assigned to individuals who did not actually teach them and for which ensured by substitutes who are not as qualified. Likewise, the labeling of some programs has been found to be too ambitious and lacking expected traditional academic modesty, not to say honesty.
Unlike in business environments where institutional watchdogs usually see to it that competition is loyal and does not occur at the expense of the end user, competition did not have only positive effects nor has it promoted quality in Moroccan higher education. It may even have demoted both the quality of the services and the performance of the competing units. This is perhaps what has motivated the recent reunification of those universities that had been split a decade or two earlier. In fact, for this type of competition to be safe the resources available to it need to have reached a critical size and the potential students a real ability to choose and afford the services offered. None is there yet!
One way to optimize the quality of the services and the performance of the units and neutralize drives for duplication hazardous to them would be to operate a reorganization of the resources available to capitalize on excellence. This could be through creating training and research poles within each faculty and university as well as among relevant units of different universities. The term pole is used only for convenience, any other would do provided it meets a mutually agreed up definition.
How would a pole be defined, then?
A pole would be a group of departments, research units and laboratories from the same university but also including others from other universities. It is a partnership framework that would be flexible enough not only to mutualize resources, human and material, but also to open up the recruitment area to wider spectrum of profiles increasing thus the quality of the recruits and the nature of services. Furthermore, this strategic multilateral cooperation partnership will be articulated around specific education, training and research projects that a common needs assessment center would have identified as most innovative and ensuring highest employability opportunities. Employability here refers to the flexibility which enables profiles to adjust to available opportunities but also to create and/or contribute to creating opportunities.
A pole would be made by a preset number of units of each category. It could, for example, include no less than three universities, a combination of departments of each faculty, and a number of laboratories and/or research units. These conditions could be further elaborated by adding to them a certain number of conventions with the private sector and with foreign and international organizations. The conventions could be further detailed in terms of social, economic and financial impacts on the pole itself, on the profiles trained and on society at large.
A pole would expire automatically the moment it fails to meet any of these conditions and to draw a given number of customers, that is, if its training offers fail to maintain a minimum attractiveness or its research projects to interest investors. A probation period can be integrated in the system to allow already established poles in difficulty to recover and that could provide it with resources to take off.
Il is critical that the relevance of the projects and the ability of a pole to deliver what it proposes to will be determined by an independent certification – accreditation unit that accredits poles and assigns them to a category within a scale. This way, to maintain excellence, universities will be able to pool resources to cooperate in the production of courses, seminars and graduate programs. Likewise, any university or department will have a wider offer including high and less high standard options and would thus cover a wider range of the potential market. The pole system would also allow professionals specializing in orphan and rare areas to join or set up joint teams from other schools and universities. As to those with less experience and credentials, integrating a pole would provide them with chances for personal and professional development they would not have had they remained confined to their own departments.
Breaking the isolation in which many a professor and researcher is experiencing is not an option, it is an urgent necessity. The pole system would not only ensure this, but it would increase the mobility of researchers and academics which is a key factor in the mutualization of intelligence and the generation of knowledge which are so critical for creativity and innovation that add value to development and to the lives of all.
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