The Tunisian Higher education system aims to provide a sound academic training. The ultimate objective of the continuous reform proposed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research is to curtail the growing challenge of unemployment among graduates by boosting knowledge and internationalising the Tunisian Higher Education institutions. The Tunisian higher education system is organized in the framework of multidisciplinary universities (13 universities including 203 faculties, schools and higher institutes), and a network of 25 Higher Institutes of Technological Studies (25 HITS). The private higher education system includes 63 institutions (2014-2015). The main branches of higher education studies are: Basic science and technological studies, law, economics and management sciences, languages, humanities and social sciences, arts, education, tourism, journalism, sports, agricultural sciences, biotechnology, environmental studies, medical and paramedical studies.
The public higher education system in Tunisia remains accessible to anyone holding the certificate awarded on a successful completion of secondary education, the bakaluria. As a result of the reform introducing the LMD system, all courses offered by the Tunisian universities, with the exception of medical, architecture and engineering courses, can be categorised into two types of studies: fundamental or academic studies, and applied or professional studies. Higher education is divided into three levels, each leading to a degree as follows:
- Academic (Fundamental) and applied Bachelor degree: Holders of the bakaluria get a Bachelor degree after the successful completion of three years of study. This academic training is equivalent to 180 ECTS (over six semesters). The semester includes at least 14 weeks of study and from 5 to 6 teaching units representing 30 ECTS.
- Academic and Professional Master training: Holders of a bachelor degree get a Master degree after the successful completion of two years of Master studies. The two years are equivalent to 120 ECTS.
- PhD: Holders of a Master degree (fundamental) receive their PhD when successfully finishing three years of research (equivalent to 180 ECTS) and defending their theses.
Engineering students attend two years of preparatory classes, culminating in a national competitive examination. According to the scores achieved in the national exam, students are oriented to the various engineering schools. Specialised training in the engineering schools is achieved over three years, bringing the total length of engineering training to five years.
Specialization in medicine is highly competitive since the number of students admitted is limited to about 200 first-year students in each relevant institution. The training lasts five years, followed by one year of clinical training. Courses in paramedical subjects, i.e. health sciences, technology and nursing, have been adapted to the Bachelor, Master and Doctorate system.
In Tunisia, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research bears the overall responsibility for developing and implementing higher education policy. The decisions of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research are taken after consultation with the Universities Council, which comprises the Presidents of all the country’s universities. The Universities Council is the national body responsible for ensuring that the sectorial broad strategic guidelines are applied. The task of that body is to validate the decisions of the sectorial committees and the national committee on the reform of the course structure, comprising professors from 25 different disciplines. It is also responsible for accrediting higher education institutions, thereby enabling them to award bachelor, Master and Doctorates degrees and to habilitate teaching staff.
The Higher Education Act (law n°2008-19) reforms university administration by offering institutions the option of moving from centralised management to a more flexible and autonomous form of management by establishing themselves as public academic and technological institutions (EPSTs), provided that they fulfil conditions relating primarily to the quality of their educational, academic, administrative and financial management. The National Evaluation, Quality Assurance and Accreditation Authority (Decree n° 1719-2012 dated 14 September 2012) is in charge of ensuring the quality of higher education. Its aim is to maintain and improve the quality of higher education and research as well as the compliance of the education system with internationally recognized standards.
International cooperation is one of the main priorities of higher education policy in Tunisia. Starting from the year 2002, Tunisia has officially joined the Tempus program. During the 3rd phase of the former Tempus program (2002-2006), Tunisia participated in 31 capacity building projects with 21 Joint Projects and 10 Structural Measures projects with a total budget of 8 million Euros. During Tempus IV (2008-2013), Tunisia has been involved in 47 projects with 37 Joint Projects and 10 Structural Measures projects with a total budget of 71, 82 million Euros. Similarly, Tunisia took part in the former Erasmus Mundus program. From 2007 to 2013, Tunisia benefited from 17 Erasmus Mundus projects. About 1026 scholarships were granted to the Tunisian students and staff.
Following the results of the 2015-2016 Erasmus+ calls for proposals, the number of capacity building projects in which Tunisia participates is 15 (5 Structural Measures projects and 10 Joint projects) with a total budget of 13.13 million Euros. 94 International Credit Mobility projects were selected leading to the implementation of 1311 mobilities. All the Tunisian Higher Education Institutions have been involved in the former Tempus, Erasmus Mundus programs as well as Erasmus+ program. However, some Tunisian HEIs are more involved than others. The capacity building projects covered a wide range of themes including the introduction of new courses, new Bachelor, Master and PhD programs, and modernized methods of teaching/learning. Most importantly, the selected projects have both aligned to the national priorities set by the Ministry and sought to respond to the growing higher education challenges and needs.
In addition to the projects financed by the EU within the framework of Erasmus+ program, H2020 program, the Tunisian-European bilateral agreements, etc., Tunisia has several bilateral agreements with Asia, the US and the neighboring countries. The General Directorate of International Cooperation at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research establishes and manages all these agreements. The main tenets of these agreements are higher education, research, innovation and technology, and students’ mobility. In addition to higher education, some of these agreements relate to culture, languages, secondary and primary education.
Regionally, Tunisia has a solid cooperation with neighbouring Maghreb countries, in higher education and scientific research. Tunisia has a well grounded students’ exchange programme with Morocco. This bilateral cooperation is expected to extend during the coming years thanks to a new mobility programme between the HEIs in both countries (Tunisian-Morocco “Ibn Khouldun” programme). A similar mobility programme with Algeria is underway. Furthermore, Tunisia is building new cooperation opportunities with Southern and African countries in higher education and scientific research. The Tunisian Ministry is encouraging African students to study at the Tunisian HEIs.
In addition, Tunisia is involved in a number of international programmes such as the Tunisian-American programmes which offer degree and non-degree scholarships for master and doctorate students, researchers and the academic staff. These programmes include “Partnership for the Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER)”, “Fulbright, Tech+” and “Thomas Jefferson”.
TAM: Montage d’un Projet de Mobilité des Etudiants, 24 March 2016
About 55 persons participated in this TAM. The main learning outcome is that the participants are now able to draft good mobility projects including the national project on which the HE Ministry is working.
TAM: Innovation in Curriculum Design and Learning Outcomes, 08 December 2016
Mrs. Maria Sticchi Damiani, SPHERE Expert: About 40 participants attended the TAM. The event aimed at introducing learning outcomes as an alternative teaching/learning approach and a prerequisite for an innovative curriculum, thus a high-quality academic programme.
TAM: Lifelong learning, 20 september 2017 (tbc)
TAM: Active Learning, end of 2017 (tbc)