Interview: Tarafa Marouane

What are the key issues for the education system?

TARAFA MAROUANE: The level of public expenditure on education in Morocco is around 6.5% of GDP, similar to other OECD countries. However, there are ongoing problems in terms of instruction versus education and teaching versus managing. We focus too much on academics at the expense of soft skills. While teachers are good at instructing, they are not the right people to make decisions about investment and the rationalisation of expenses and costs. Moreover, universities have been deprived of one of their most important roles – namely, scientific and academic production. Morocco has created engineering schools, business schools and research institutes, which are not linked to universities but to ministries. Last but not least, the language of instruction should not be framed as a political issue.

What can be done to promote a greater degree of collaboration between universities and companies?

MAROUANE: The job market requires applicants with the skills to analyse, conceptualise, implement, communicate and achieve solutions. We often see young graduates passing interviews for their first job without having previously done an internship, and their soft skills do not match up to the requirements of the business world. Another problem is that having taken research and development (R&D), engineering schools and business schools away from universities; we have ended up with a situation where universities have weak ties with companies and the private sector more generally.

What role can the private sector play in R&D?

MAROUANE: In order to achieve a stronger degree of collaboration between universities and the private sector, we need to ensure that when the government gives research tax credits and incentives, the money is actually used for research. The CGEM recommends exonerating companies for work that they outsource to a university or a public research institute. Another step is allowing executives of private firm to participate in the management of universities. Not only in the administration council, but also in management committees, giving advice on how training can meet the needs of employers as well as suggesting research subjects in line with the country’s social and economic needs.

What are the benefits of university autonomy?

MAROUANE: Universities in Morocco need greater freedom to experiment and innovate with the curriculum, for example through the establishment of research institutes. Greater autonomy will allow universities to create benchmarks and best practices that can be shared. In order to master this we should establish audit and academic committees with private sector representatives. Universities can also form constructive partnerships with other institutions around the world.

In what ways can the government’s new educational strategy, Vision 2030, boost the sector?

MAROUANE: The Higher Council for Education, Training and Scientific Research will present a plan for the coming years. We can highlight three trends, which when addressed in a pragmatic way, will help remove the obstacles that affect universities in Morocco.

First, better regulation is needed. Because the sector is heavily centralised, good governance tends to suffer, as education and management are not separate. Second, privatisation needs to be managed more effectively. Efforts have been made by the government since the launch of the first private university in 2010, and we are now close to having a defined framework. Lastly, globalisation should be considered. Transnational partnerships with foreign universities could help counteract the problems that were caused by switching to the Arabic language across the sector in the 1980s. Not only will partnerships help to develop languages skills, but they could also be beneficial in terms of R&D. Morocco needs to be integrated into the global network of universities that work with multinational firms.