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A Different University Model!

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May 27, 2016 / 0 Comments
   

The integrated strategic project (Figure No. 1) that the Université Virtuelle de Tunis (UVT) has been conducting over the past few years is a special project. It stemmed from an in-depth analysis of the university’s situation and addresses its needs, taking account of the obstacles to its development. The project is also tailored to its specific needs and is firmly established in its context. However, this is a reform project that has been designed and implemented by the university and for the university.

 

Figure No. 1: The UVT integrated strategic project

Source: Prepared by the authors

 

The university governance screening card is one of the tools that has enabled the UVT to gain a better understanding of its situation and identify areas for improvement. The scores for the “Autonomy” and “Accountability” dimensions were relatively low, and the score for the “Participation” dimension was the lowest.

 

The visual representations (Figure No. 2 and Figure No. 3) illustrate the university’s scores for the five governance dimensions, showing the scores for the self-assessment and the questionnaire, respectively.

 

Figure No. 2: University Governance – Self-Assessment Scores

Source: « Université Virtuelle de Tunis, Positionnement de la gouvernance universitaire », World Bank, 2012.

 

Figure No. 3: University Governance: Questionnaire Scores

Source: « Université Virtuelle de Tunis, Positionnement de la gouvernance universitaire », World Bank, 2012.

 

Against this backdrop, the UVT, using financing available under the competitive fund mechanism for the Quality Support Program (PAQ), first took major steps to improve its management capacity, thereby facilitating an in-depth diagnostic assessment. The UVT has developed a draft of a new, adapted organization chart, job description sheets, a procedures manual, and a quality manual, among other things. It conducted skills assessments of its staff and implemented measures to enhance these skills through internships abroad and training sessions on the management and autonomy of the university, quality management, and so forth.

 

The UVT also conducted its first self-assessment during the 2014-2015 academic year. An internal committee established for this purpose used tools tailor-made for the UVT to conduct the self-assessment exercise. A preliminary study of the benchmarks from European agencies (for example, the ANECA agency in Spain and the AAQ agency in Switzerland) and from self-assessment guides was carried out with support from an international expert.  The UVT’s first self-assessment report was drafted in August 2015, and includes an improvement plan put forward by the internal committee.

 

In November 2015, the first external evaluation of the UVT was conducted by a committee of international experts mobilized by the Maghreb office of the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF).

 

The next self-assessment slated for early 2017 aims to subject the UVT’s internal quality assurance system to an evaluation by a European agency and secure international accreditation for a minimum of two UVT programs.

 

The UVT also embarked on a process to strengthen its autonomy. It is the first and only university to request a change, in September 2014, in status to a Public Scientific and Technological Institution (EPST). This change in status not only grants financial autonomy (e.g., business accounting, more flexible procurement procedures, and ex post expenditure controls) to the UVT. It also enables the university to shift toward greater managerial autonomy because it is now governed both by the law on higher education and the business legislation applicable to non-administrative public institutions (EPNA). Since January 1, 2016, the UVT is the sole autonomous university in Tunisia.

 

Armed with the lessons learned from the diagnostic assessments and the evaluation, the UVT also embarked on the preparation of its first strategic development plan. In the initial phase, an international expert provided support during strategic discussions on the future of the university and virtual education. From a methodological standpoint, this exercise involved a desk review, focus groups attended by university officials and executives, workshops to plan for and identify changing scenarios involving internal and external actors, and interviews with stakeholders. A participatory approach was therefore used to develop the 2016-2019 strategic plan. The UVT thus became the first Tunisian university to have a four-year development plan and an officially adopted long-term vision (“The UVT will be an innovative benchmark university locally and abroad”), as well as a specific vision for 2020, when execution of its 2016-2019 strategic development plan will be completed.

 

The UVT recently began preparing its development project for the 2016-2019 period. In accordance with the UVT’s legal obligations in its capacity as an EPST, this four-year project must be submitted to the board of directors (the governing board) in October 2016 and will serve as the basis for the signing of a performance contract with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The signing of the UVT contract in 2016 will thus herald the revival of the contract-based system in higher education, which has not been used since early 2010.

 

The integrated strategic project has been conceived as a dynamic and unifying project. It is the first step in the process to change from a type of public management ill-suited to the specific needs of the UVT and its new context. This project was initiated as a way to instill, in a slow yet thorough manner, a new culture among university officials and staff. It is also a capacity-building project, which is being achieved by ensuring ownership of the tools and approaches by the university’s internal actors and provision of support with their learning process, so that they can gradually execute these activities in a spontaneous, effective, and, above all, autonomous manner. This project has enabled the UVT to enter a new phase that is expected to enhance performance and promote more rapid development.

 

This article is part of a blog series featuring the views of tertiary education experts from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regarding tertiary education in their respective countries as well as the use of the University Governance Screening Card, an innovative tool that enables universities in the region to compare themselves with international standards, define their own unique set of goals and establish benchmarks to assess the progress in achieving them. The University Governance Screening Card (UGSC) was developed under the World Bank/CMI program on tertiary education and applied by 100 universities in the MENA region.

Béchir Allouch

Project Manager at the Université Virtuelle de Tunis

 

Béchir Allouch is an expert in education. He is a professor (maître technologue) of economics and management and is in charge of strategic and pedagogical projects at the Université Virtuelle de Tunis. He has served as project manager (Office for the Coordination of Scientific Research) on the Executive Staff of the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research. He pursued his postgraduate studies in France, and is currently enrolled in a doctoral program in educational science at the Université de Genève.

Jilani Lamloumi

President of the Université Virtuelle de Tunis

 

Jilani Lamloumi has served as the President of the Université Virtuelle de Tunis since 2011. Prior to joining the university, he held several leadership positions including President of the Université de Gabès, Director General of Technological Studies, and Director of the Ecole Supérieure des Sciences et Techniques de Tunis. He is a university professor and holds a PhD in Physics.

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