"AlmaLaurea in Maghreb and in the Middle East"

24 May 2011

"AlmaLaurea is a model that, once overcome the geographical distances, will have great power on some of the training and employment strategic objectives set by the Barcelona Process. It is a network capable of having a positive impact on employment opportunities of graduates, on the improvement of teaching and on the quality of students. For such reasons, I hope the model will be spread soon to all universities in the Maghreb and in the Middle East."

Ilan Chet, Deputy Secretary General for Higher Education and Research, Union for the Mediterranean, in the video interview at the International Conference "Human Capital and Employment in the Euro-Mediterranean area", jointly organized by AlmaLaurea and AlmaMater on March 10-11 in Bologna, states his enthusiasm about the AlmaLaurea system and illustrates its potential.

In your opinion, what should be the role of the university system in training the right skills and in improving employment opportunities of young graduates?
"It's a very important issue that needs to be discussed in the light of the potentialities that each university has, from the type of education provided to the different teaching methods, strengths and weaknesses of each institution. In general, we can divide university formation into three main academic groups: humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Degrees of the first group are less demanded by companies, but are very useful to students that want to pursue an academic career or enter the public institutions. We must not forget that humanities have a fundamental value added for the society, even if such faculties develop skills that might be less attractive than others for the labor market. Then, there are the graduates in social sciences that to enhance their career opportunities can attend an MBA in business administration, finance or economics, which are particularly demanded by the business world, and which may represent a take off for students who have an educational background of quality. Finally, the natural sciences: here we find subjects such as mathematics and computer science demanded by the companies working in the field of high tech and information technology. The same goes for degrees in physics, chemistry, biology and biotechnology, mainly useful for the industry. In this case, graduates’ employment opportunities are higher than those offered by other faculties because the practical potential is more developed. It is sufficient to look at the Middle Eastern countries, recently entered in the global economic mechanisms: in this case, I believe that the future will be based on new start-up opportunities, innovation and technology. It means that companies investing in these areas could offer excellent career prospects to graduates, especially in the natural sciences."

In such a framework, how do you rate the AlmaLaurea system? Do you think it can be a central model in promoting and developing the Euro-Mediterranean training system and in the improvement of employment opportunities for young graduates?
"I was enthusiastic about the AlmaLaurea model. This is a unique network, which gives to Italian universities joining the consortium a comparable and reliable test for their actions. In addition, as a strategic guidance for choosing the course of study, it approaches to the needs of graduates and, through its data base, including over one million and 700 thousand certificates curricula, responds to business needs by providing, from time to time, the most appropriate profiles. For all these reasons I believe that AlmaLaurea is a very good system, capable of affecting in an effective and positive way the employment opportunities of graduates, not only within the Italian context, but also beyond, especially in the countries of the southern shores of the Mediterranean where, if properly replicated, can be very useful. Just look at what is happening in Morocco, where AlmaLaurea is implementing his model with great results."

How do you see the future of the Union for the Mediterranean? What do you think of the harsh criticism to the capability to play a significant role within the Euro-Mediterranean context?
"The Barcelona process has started long time ago, in 2008, but the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean began to be active only in September 2010. This means that, in fact, we are working on this project only for half a year, and it takes time patience and attention to organize and plan a structure like this. The difficulties are certainly not lacking, from the budget, cut on several occasions, to the rules of the Secretariat, which were approved just two months ago. Guidelines on how to select the projects have not been approved yet by ministry officials, although we are on the wave. More specifically, the Secretariat is composed of six sectors: alternative energy, environment, water, social affairs, civil protection, urbanization and, finally, higher education and research that I am personally in charge of. One of the key points is the work done within the network EMUNI, the Euro-Mediterranean University which will shortly open an office in Fez, Morocco. The hub and the head is in Slovenia, but the institution will have a representative among the universities of the southern Mediterranean too."

Could you give us some examples?
"With EMUNI we have recently started a master program dedicated to specific training in order to prepare ad hoc profiles for the different sectors and objectives of the Secretariat, as it was set by the European Union. What is more, with Professor Joseph Mifsud, President of Euro-Mediterranean University, we are promoting a new PhD program on governance and on desertification in the Middle East to train graduates in this fields. The idea is to align the Union for the Mediterranean to the directives drawn by the Bologna Process, a common ground necessary to unify the pathways of individual universities and to allow mobility of students and professors. Only by tracing the footsteps of the process we will be able to improve the system as a whole. That's why we are promoting a series of initiatives in several areas in order to improve the university situation of the Euro Mediterranean area, especially in the south, to encourage employment and facilitate mobility of students and teachers. AlmaLaurea is part of this network."

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