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The reform of the License, Mastère, Doctorat (LMD) programs in Algeria’s higher education sector, a reform consistent with prevailing trends toward globalization, signals a new approach to management, governance and regulation of the institutions concerned. Indeed, the increased pedagogical autonomy of Algeria’s universities that resulted from these reforms has led to more diverse opportunities for education and training. Hence the need to introduce quality standards and tools from the very outset, in order to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the reforms. In this way, LMD reform has, in one fell swoop, provided a firm basis for a project that was always longed for, but previously ill-defined.
In keeping with this plan and notwithstanding the ever-increasing growth in student enrolment, the improvement of quality is a serious ongoing concern for those responsible for the management of institutions of higher learning in Algeria. Despite the best intentions, such improvements are not easily implemented, as universities are complex organisms, with a dynamic interplay of events, actors and objects. They are also driven by different combinations of processes that respond to deterministic rules and are highly susceptible to random events. As if this were not enough, resistance to change, bolstered by a conformist and interventionist culture, makes it difficult to implement a template for governance.
In view of the foregoing, the leadership of Algeria’s universities should apply themselves in thought and in deed to set up a quality management system, whereby governance will be effected through the management processes employed at the institutions. Given the current transformations, permanent changes and future challenges, these institutions should seek to implement the necessary policy, procedures and requirements that will allow them to carry out activities to consistently improve their effectiveness, performance, sound management, and working methods, as well as their core functions (teaching and research). All of these actions should be in consonance with their respective future development plans.
To achieve this, the tools used to implement the priorities and the strategy will be consistent with steps taken to improve quality. These steps will be implemented over time and with broad participation, since staff involvement encouraged by the firm commitment of management is a guarantee of success.
And this brings us to the vital question: how to move from a system of centralized control to a modern, transparent and participatory form of governance? Only an approach that focuses on changing the culture, once it has taken root and been absorbed, will improve the capacity of supervisors and management to implement reforms.
Because all too often, we forget that where strategy and culture clash, it is culture that will always prevail.
Indeed, in 1972, Bertrand de Jouvenel gave an apt description of the powerlessness of leaders when confronted by culture: “the more stable the beliefs of a society and the more predictable its behavior, the less leeway authorities have to act. Power may seem absolute when exercised in accordance with the role reserved for it by tradition; but it reveals itself to be infinitely weak if it seeks to run counter to the might of custom…”
Except that, to lead is to create or change the culture; and it is with this in view that we will outline the foundational elements for effecting cultural change and implementing a quality management system in Algeria’s universities. Needless to say, this project will not be successful unless management encourages and supports the individuals and processes that are drivers of change and unless, more specifically, they enhance the capacity of supervisors and teaching staff to conduct reforms.
How will one bring about the necessary change in the culture to counter resistance to change and effectively implement the various projects and reforms? In 1976, Henri Janne in “The Social System” identified the following seven drivers of change in culture within an organization:
Since the environment requires universities to become more and more flexible, these seven drivers of proven effectiveness should be taken on board and applied by the leadership to allow for rapid acculturation that will facilitate change and the implementation of reforms. Of course, this would require people with real leadership skills. But that is another problem …
Therefore, only a commitment to quality-based change—integrated into an overarching strategy with specific, achievable and ambitious objectives, in which governance will be democratic, participatory and transparent and the needs and expectations of stakeholders will be duly taken into account, while instilling in future graduates a critical and inquiring spirit—will enable Algerian universities to embark on the road to excellence. This will be the bedrock on which to build a culture of total quality in an environment that allows all actors to flourish, be they students, teachers or support staff.
Was it not Marcel Proust who said: “The real voyage of discovery is not to go in search of new lands, but to see with new eyes. “
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.