The Algerian government plan to move from French to English as the official language of teaching and learning at third-level is to be supported through a specially designed PhD program offered to visiting students at UL.
UL will facilitate the conversion to English as a teaching medium with the Algerian Ministry of National Education as the country moves to increase the visibility of research in HE institutions.
“We have much to learn from the cooperation with Algeria”
According to a statement on the UL website, the first phase of the project has seen 117 PhD students, the majority of whom are female, join the international PhD program in UL.
Overall the program will see 400 Algerian PhD students study at UL during the four years of the project in a contract estimated to be worth up to €20m.
A Memorandum of Understanding between UL and the Algerian MoE has been signed agreeing to the relationship and the fee structure over the first four years of the project, as well as a contract guaranteeing €5.5m for UL on the initial intake.
The PhD was designed after a think tank of specialists and administration officials came together to find ways to open up the international environment for Algerian universities.
Executive dean and chair in Applied Languages, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at UL, Helen Kelly-Holmes, said the initiative is a “game-changer” in terms of the university’s international presence and impact.
“We have much to learn from the cooperation with Algeria and it is a fantastic opportunity to help shape the future development of higher education in that country,” she added.
Director of Cooperation and Interuniversity exchanges at the Algerian MoE, Arezki Saidani, said the ministry looks forward to “long-term engagement and fruitful collaboration” with the Irish university.
Mairead Moriarty, assistant dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at UL, explained that UL’s first engagement with the proposal came through professor Tewfik Soulimane, an Algerian national who is the head of chemical sciences at UL’s Bernal Institute.
“The Algerian government is moving from teaching everything through the medium of French to the medium of English so they need to upskill staff in higher education, trainee teachers and current students, and they have put aside a significant amount of funding to do this,” she explained.
A UL delegation travelled to Algeria to pitch for the project, where it was explained that Algerian universities were having difficulty accessing funding and attracting international collaborators outside of the French-speaking world.
“We had consultations and presentations to document all of the aspects of our bid to host the candidates, including how the program would look, the types of supports available for international students and how competitive UL was against other Irish and UK universities,” continued Moriarty.
“We were told that they needed to start the switch and publish in English and to ensure that their education system is moved over to English quickly.
“If you really want to be an international player, you can’t just focus on what is happening in your own front yard”
“Our job now is to bring students, who have competed nationally in Algeria for these scholarships, over to us so that they can be trained on how to teach through the medium of English while also doing a PhD at the same time,” she added.
As part of the initiative, a full support network, including on-campus accommodation, has been put in place to help the international students while they are at UL.
Moriarty added that on completion of the international PhD, each of the Algerian students will be well placed to access a lecturing post when they return home.
“We also have a moral responsibility to the developing world and to [help] developing countries to reach their goals. I think the fact that UL is a University of Sanctuary and the fact that we have a huge amount of projects with Irish Aid and a history of doing research that is community-led is important,” she said.
“That type of work can’t just be in our own local community because if you really want to be an international player, you can’t just focus on what is happening in your own front yard.”