PROF. MOSTAPHA BOUSMINA

Morocco 2020 | EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Prof. Mostapha Bousmina, President of Euromed University of Fes, on COVID-19, courses on offer, and partnerships with overseas institutions.

How did the university adapt to the current situation of COVID-19 not only for its students but also society?

During this international crisis, our country had quickly taken, under the direct supervision and leadership of His Majesty the King, strong and proactive actions to manage this unprecedented crisis. It is in times like these that we recognize structured states and the efficiency of their institutions. During this crisis, our university has taken various measures and actions for its students and for society. First, we implemented close to 100% distance learning for all our programmes (in education we rather use program and not program). To ensure equity and equal opportunities for all, we provided, with help from the EU, new computers and 4G internet sticks with one-year subscription to 530 students from rural areas and from low-income families to allow them to be connected and to have access to distance learning as the other students. We also took action to take care of our foreign students who unfortunately could not return to their home countries and are currently living in our university dormitories. We sterilize the dormitories and hand out masks and hand sanitizer gels regularly, and we give them packed lunches, drinks and other items. We also provide them with psychological assistance, when needed. For society, staff at our university have voluntarily donated part of or their entire one-month salary to the national fund for the management of COVID-19. Second, we have produced thousands of protective visors and donated them to hospitals and administrations in our region. We have also developed and fabricated washable, sterilizable, and reusable plastic masks with homemade filters that comply with international medical requirements. The masks are manufactured in our university with 3D printing facilities. We have developed a new respirator-valve and a new air-flow meter in our university in collaboration with doctors from Rabat that is currently being tested in hospitals. We have also developed an application for the virus tracking that will be put at the disposal of the authorities. Our university has been extremely active during this period of containment and confinement. We do not communicate a lot about our actions in this period of crisis, but we are doing our best to take care of our staff and our students and we are strongly committed in technological projects that are of help to the society.

UEMF has a wide portfolio of studies, such as social sciences, political sciences, business school, architecture, and engineering, among others. Which of these see greater demand?

In September 2019, we opened a new engineering school, which is first of its kind in Europe and in Africa region: a 5-year engineering school completely dedicated to Artificial Intelligence (AI). There are some schools in North America and Asia but none yet in Europe or Africa. We have concluded several agreements with various universities from the two shores of the Mediterranean, with generally double diplomas for students. Presently, we have nine entities, three faculties, three engineering schools (Mechanical engineering, civil engineering, IT engineering, biomedical engineering and AI engineering), a school of architecture, a school of business, and an institute of law and political sciences. In September, we will open a faculty of pharmacy. UEMF offers world-class bachelors, master's, and PhD programs, both in research and education, in humanities and social sciences, life sciences, engineering, business, and architecture.

UEF is part of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), which brings together all EU member countries and 15 countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean. What are the main goals and initiatives of this organization?

UfM was extremely instrumental in the creation of the university. It also played a crucial role from political standpoint and helped to complete the budget of the University. A large part of our budget comes from the Moroccan state and the rest from UE and from the European Bank of Investment (EIB) in form of loan. I take this opportunity to express our high appreciation and our gratitude to the Moroccan Government, to the EU end the EIB.

UEMF has several partnerships with foreign universities such the Sorbonne in Paris or the University of Florence. What is your strategy in this regard?

The strategy of the university is to act as a platform that bridges, from educational and cultural viewpoint, the two reams of the Mediterranean. We have strong collaboration and partnerships with several universities and research institutions from Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Sweden, UK, Germany, Greece, Slovenia, Canada, US, China, Tunisia and other countries, including from sub-Saharan Africa. Presently, students and faculty members of our university represent 32 nationalities, both from north and from south. They work together in harmony, they imagine and they innovate in a collaborative way. UEMF is a true multicultural and multidimensional environment with a Euro-Mediterranean-African identity. We also have collaborations with other regions of the world beyond Europe. For example, this summer we were expecting to receive some students from Stanford University (USA), but unfortunately this had been postponed due to COVID-19. We also have collaborations with China, Canada and Chile. We are currently preparing for international accreditations with the assistance of UfM.

Can you tell us about your eco-campus?

From the beginning, the campus sought to be an eco-campus that got the labeling from COP22 that was organized in Marrakech in 2016. We have in fact included several technologies of sustainable development, with the objective to be energy sufficient, to consume a minimum of water and to take maximum benefit from natural sunlight. The used technologies include highly insulating materials, photovoltaic, and thermal solar devices, recycling of gray water, rainwater harvesting and its reuse for watering gardens. The design of the buildings was inspired by the ancestral know-how of the city of fez in terms of ventilation and natural air conditioning. Our students from architecture and from the Master's on Renewable energy program conducted several projects about sustainable development on the campus.

How would you rate the Moroccan educational sector compared to the region?

In the last five years, we have witnessed an important expansion in the higher education system, with a wide choice of universities including public universities, not-for-profit universities that are endowed with public utility status like our university, and purely private universities. The number of students has also tripled, with more than 1.2 million students currently. This brings various challenges, such as dealing with this significant expansion by operating a true digital transition in our universities. Second, we have to design career-oriented programs that are closely linked to economic strategic sectors in the country. More than that, we must design proactive programs to shape a generation of entrepreneurs who can create innovative start-ups and their own businesses to generate wealth and participate to Morocco's economic and technological development. It is also of high importance to revise the 01-00 law governing the higher education in Morocco and have more operational governing bodies of the university and render the higher education system more flexible and agile to respond to the society needs and challenges. The new law should include, among others, the autonomy of the universities and the status of the not-for-profit universities that should be distinguished from the purely private universities. To comply with international standards, the Moroccan universities should also be open to the diaspora and to foreigner talents by recognizing their achievements in foreigner countries and include them within the national system. Finally, a true assurance quality system should be implement in universities with a top-down and bottom-up assessment and evaluation including the evaluation of the faculty members, the chairs of departments, the deans and even the rectorate team. Such performance-oriented strategy should concern also universities with a contract between the Ministry of Higher Education based on clear deliverables. Such assurance quality system should be accompanied by a posteriori control of the achievements and the of the financing of the universities.