A roadmap for making Morocco a regional hub

Morocco has unveiled a 15-year development model with aims that include establishing the country as a regional hub for higher education, research and innovation in order to attract students from the African continent and beyond.

The model was presented to King Mohammed VI on 25 May.

Elizabeth Buckner, assistant professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto in Canada, told University World News this was “a great initiative”.

“Morocco has a long history of being a crossroads for different parts of Europe, Africa and the Arab world, and has a lot to offer as a hub for science and learning,” she said.

Buckner, a former Fulbright scholar to Morocco, said this was an important step for Morocco to make its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a priority.

“We know that countries around the world are embracing new models to support higher education – these include creating new hubs, new partnerships for science and joint degrees, as well as creating new providers of higher education – so this initiative seems in line with global trends,” she said.

Abdellah Benahnia, a part-time international researcher and professor at the Superior Institutions of Science and Technology, an associate college of Cardiff Metropolitan University in Casablanca, told University World News: “Morocco is steadily becoming a regional hub for higher education, research and innovation, and a key factor and role player especially for achieving SDGs and economic, social, and political stability on the African continent and in the Arab World.

“Besides the flourishing and spreading of many foreign educational institutions, programmes and activities, Morocco is pushing educational partnerships with global universities quite hard, but with the preservation and safeguarding of the nation’s principles, objectives and goals,” Benahnia said.

Morocco is the most popular destination in North Africa for American students. The country welcomed 1,749 American students during the 2018-19 academic year, according to the November 2020 annual Open Doors report.

Morocco has also been a key destination for Sub-Saharan African students, hosting more than 18,000, including 6,500 recipients of scholarships from the Moroccan Agency for International Cooperation, according to a 2018 report entitled Starting Afresh: The Maghreb’s relations with Sub-Saharan Africa.

A new generation of universities

According to the plan, the regional higher education hub will be achieved through “the emergence of a new generation of universities, operating with standards of excellence, and with renewed models of governance, reinforced with the appropriate capabilities to carry out the tasks assigned to them”.

“These universities could include the current public higher education institutions after being re-formed and through supporting their independence, as well as new institutions supported by non-profit organisations, similar to some of the major universities in the world,” the plan notes.

These higher education institutions, in addition to their roots in their surroundings and their openness to the world, will be directed at the same time towards theoretical, applied and professional academic fields.

“These universities must become independent and place the students at the centre of their priorities in order to qualify and develop their scientific and cultural capabilities, especially in order to make their integration in the job market a success.”

Investing in a “skilled Morocco” is emphasised, so that “human capital is strengthened and empowered to face the future”. The goal is to achieve social mobility and enable the country “to significantly improve its position on global rankings related to human capital development”.

The plan also calls for investing in human resources and strengthening the capacity of particularly teachers, researchers, doctors and other healthcare professionals.

“By placing the university at the core of the national system, Morocco aspires to develop a new approach to higher education based on research and application closely related to reality, in which research topics are centred around the challenges and national development situations,” the plan states.

This could lead to “a quantum leap in the field of training, scientific research and innovation by including it within a continuous dynamic of growth”.

Morocco is currently a moderate performer in terms of its knowledge infrastructure. It ranks 83rd out of 138 countries in the Global Knowledge Index 2020, and 85th and 82nd in terms of higher education and research development and innovation respectively.

Source: Universityofworld.com