Interview: Thami Ghorfi
How can more cooperation between public and private academic institutions be encouraged?
THAMI GHORFI: To encourage the conclusion of public-private partnerships (PPPs), the regional dimension should be strengthened. More autonomy is needed for public institutions to integrate their abilities with private institutions. For instance, there are now many secondary school students who want to attend public universities, but who do not have the skills to do so, or else these universities lack the capacity to accommodate them. Developing PPPs between public and private institutions can help to increase the capacity of the system as a whole, helping provide places for more students. The second area where increased cooperation can create added value is research. Morocco does not have the capacity to engage in all areas of research, but should dedicate itself to applied research. This would serve the needs of economic development. Through PPPs, the knowledge capacities of research facilities and the market expertise of private companies could be brought together, improving the remit of applied research and meeting each region’s economic needs.
What are some of the most pressing shortcomings in university education today?
GHORFI: The most important notion that needs to be understood is that our resources can create new talent. Once we reach the point at which we can educate our own talent, we will have achieved something very positive. We need to become aware that we do have talented people, and we need to exploit this potential. Likewise, we must reorient university education towards the logic of the market. I do not necessarily mean the needs of the private sector, but of the economy as a whole. We should restore the social sciences for the sake of the responding to real needs, given that a better understanding of sociological trends will help the authorities better meet the needs of the people. A general reorientation of higher education will also be useful. This requires an adapted approach for each region. For instance, one region may need more biologists than another, and this should be reflected in the educational strategy. Regions can, of course, cooperate, but only as far as is needed.
Does high tuition affect access to higher education?
GHORFI: To create a system of top private universities that can compete with their peers at the international level, one must have very good human resources. But to train people is expensive, hence high tuition costs.
These institutions must also invest in creating an enabling environment, and this comes at a cost. However, I do not believe that the price that students in private establishments pay is as high as the cost for the state to train a student in a public university. Also, these fees need to be compared against those that one would pay when attending business schools or other professional schools abroad. In that respect, our institutions are much cheaper. As for students from low-income families, business schools like ours need to take social responsibility. We need to help such students to succeed. The funding for this has to come from foundations, wherein successful entrepreneurs unite their financial means. Universities can then offer scholarships.
How can university curricula be reformed so as to better respond to labour market needs?
GHORFI: This is a bit of a chicken-and-egg question. The real issue is that, due to the economic crisis, there are simply not enough jobs for all graduating students. Only when jobs are being created can companies set requirements for applicants. All job-creating sectors need to be supported – starting with the industrial sector, because it can absorb people with all levels of education. If we can develop our export industries, we can achieve more sustainable solutions. In the short term, companies should help schools and universities cultivate a culture of self-reliance. More entrepreneurship is needed. People should have the right to fail, as this will help us encourage new entrepreneurship.
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