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SAGESSE closing ceremony: ​An opportunity of comparison and dialogue with Tunisian universities and with international stakeholders

The closing ceremony of the SAGESSE project took place online on 12th July 2021 and saw the participation of more than 100 participants.

It was indeed a-one-day interactive event bringing together the 13 Tunisian Universities of the SAGESSE consortium, the 5 European partners, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Tunisia, the National Agency for Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Tunisia and many other national and international stakeholders took part to the event.

The 12th July event offered a floor for universities from Euro-Mediterranean area and international stakeholders to meet and exchange best practices, experiences and perspectives on how to modernize the Higher Education system in Tunisia, on how to strengthen the quality assurance system and its governance mechanisms. This also represented an opportunity to network with representatives of international institutions and organizations, as well as with the SAGESSE consortium.

The day mainly focused on the new challenges and opportunities for the Higher Education sector in Tunisia to put into place the reform process for a more innovative, performant and open University playing thus its societal role to guarantee young graduates and students good employment opportunities.

The conference saw in the opening and greetings sessions, the welcome message by the Ambassador of the European Union in Tunisia, H.E. Marcus CORNARO who underlined the key role of the European Union which through the Erasmus plus and Horizon 2020 programmes, provides with extraordinary opportunities for academic cooperation and research at an international level. The opportunities put in place undoubtedly concern inter-academic exchanges and research consortia that allow to focus on excellence and innovation at global level by boosting -as an indirect impact – the employment of young citizens. SAGESSE project-then the Ambassador adds – is part of this framework of structural cooperation which, among the strong points, will lead to the improvement of the efficiency of the Higher Education system in Tunisia

After the intervention of H.E., the Ambassador, Prof. Hmaid Ben Aziza, Secretary General of UNIMED and Prof. Francisco Matte Bon, President of UNIMED took the floor.

Professor Ben Aziza stresses that the real challenges and difficulties begin today. The key to good governance lies in the hands of colleagues from the various universities who have participated in this global project. SAGESSE is in fact a global project because it has seen the involvement of all Tunisian universities, the ministry and the IEAQA but also because its mission is to improve the system of governance globally so that universities can equalize international standards. The President also recalled that the SAGESSE project paved the way for a new relaunch of the reform process underway in Tunisia. It is therefore the beginning of a path shared with universities which, through research and training, train the new generations.

H.E. Olfa BENOUDA, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Tunisia left to the participants a video message, where she highlighted that this is an ambitious and very successful project because it has the great merit of bringing together the thirteen Tunisian universities to share experiences and perspectives to improve their Higher Education system. The Minister said that indeed, SAGESSE addressed an important issue for the Country, improvement of the efficiency of governance, financial and pedagogical autonomy, and the autonomy of administrative and of the staff. The Minister concludes by thanking all the Tunisian Presidents and Vice Presidents of Tunisia’s public universities, and of all their staff for having contributing in reaching good results terms of quality, innovation and modernization of teaching and student services. This project therefore had the great merit of wanting to build a new all-round governance model that will continue in the future

The event saw also the participation of a key note speaker, by the International Association of Universities – IAU, with which UNIMED collaborates. The IAU Secretary General Hilligje VAN’T LAND, underlined indeed how SAGESSE aimed to “promote values-based Higher education leadership”, by strengthening a culture of democracy in academia and by  ensuring a higher quality of teaching, learning, research and outreach and its respective missions.

She pointed out how the culture of democracy and values, including freedom of education, institutional autonomy and the social responsibility of institutions at local and global levels strengthen also teaching, learning and research. She added that everyone is engaged in this process: every student, and indeed every citizen, has in him or her the capacity to develop the skills necessary to contribute to the “knowledge economy” and to society at large and in a meaningful way.

After this first greetings session and the IAU speaker, we had the session with the four of the Tunisian president universities. First of all, we had prof. Abdelwahed MOKNI, President of the University of Sfax and President of the Conference of University Presidents, who took the floor the floor by underling that the SAGESSE project has the great merit of entering the framework of the reform process underway to modernize and therefore decentralize, in line with the university autonomy process, the education system. He also added that the process of autonomy, already recently decreed by the Tunisian Constitution, is still underway and SAGESSE has helped in this difficult exercise. Finally, he underlined three strong points, namely the human resources deployed, the financing used and a greater efficiency of the system that can favor a greater integration of the unemployed into the labour market.

The project was able to identify these critical points and use resources rationally and intelligently to cope with them.

It was then the turn of the President of the University of La Manouba, prof. Jouhaina GHERIB, who pointed out another great merit of the project which was to establish its synergy with the PROMESSE programme, a structural programme financed by the World Bank and managed by the Ministry at the national level, to understand the state of the art of the autonomy process and the next steps for a winning strategy.

Prof. Moez CHAFRA, President of the University of Tunis El Manar, emphasized among the merits of the SAGESSE project, the creation of a more performing teaching system to consequently create a more competitive national university system. He then mentioned the importance of the training activities implemented during the life of the SAGESSE project especially   in terms of Quality Assurance topic. and staff’ training and also lists some key results achieved.

Finally, prof. Ali MANSOURI, Vice President of the University of Gafsa, mentioned among the other strong points of the project the exchange of good practices in terms financial management and information system, leadership commitment at all levels of the University, strengthening of the coordination role of the university in relation to all the institutions that compose it, Among the results achieved, he mentioned the purchase of the software Sphinx, a unique tool at national level therefore used by all the Tunisian Universities of the SAGESSE consortium which allows to manage satisfaction surveys, surveys on the future of graduates, teaching evaluation questionnaires, surveys on the needs of companies and in particular to train teacher-researchers and Tunisian students on survey techniques and methods of analysis of data.

The closing ceremony saw also the intervention of Dr. Mounir BAATI, Expert senior in Quality Assurance, from the European Training Foundation -ETF, with which UNIMED has a framework of Cooperation. Dr. Baati took the floor by focusing on the Quality Assurance in the field of professional training, then presenting the experience of the European Training Foundation and the European Framework on Quality Assurance.

The last session has finally seen the presentation of main recommendations come out from the SAGESSE project and the presentation of the exploitation plan of the SAGESSE project.  The project coordinator, Dr. Silvia MARCHIONNElisted some of the recommendations emerged from the work of the three years and half of the SAGESSE partnership focused in particular to improve the autonomy and governance of Tunisian universities. Some of them concerns the strategic planning for a successful university; some others target the implementation of the quality assurance and the management system of quality and namely, the self-assessment at all stages of institutional and management processes, the availability, allocation of financial and human resources, in order to support the transfer into practice of the Quality Assurance system at internal and external level. Finally, further recommendations concern the dynamization of the University Quality Committees responsible for the internal quality by elaborating quality assurance policies and internal quality manuals, by ensuring training and capacity building of key personnel.

Lastly, the UNIMED Director, Dr. Marcello Scalisi took the floor to present the sustainability plan drafted by the partners where he emphasized the importance to continue to use and exploit the national equipment Sphinx for the benefit of all the Tunisian universities and their staff, as well as to continue the dialogue and comparison efforts internally at decision level among the university leaders, academic and administrative staff; to continue to train further staff by transferring knowledge and competences acquired during the project and by adopting the quality manual and other tools developed by SAGESSE to reinforce the dynamisation of the quality committees at each university. Finally, he reiterated the importance to continue to establish synergies and links with other initiatives and projects on the same topics to further exploit results in a more constructive way.

The following video are available to be watched:

The list of participants is available here.

To find out more about the programme of the whole event and its concept note, please click here.