By Siham Ali
Morocco plans to impose university tuition fees on certain families, Minister of Higher Education Lahcen Daoudi said recently.
“Today we have a serious problem, which is a universally free higher education,” Daoudi said in an interview with l’Economiste published on July 23rd. “We cannot continue that logic. With its budgetary constraints, the state does not have the means to finance everyone equally.”
Faculties of medicine and prestigious grandes écoles, which train public-sector employees, will be the first to be affected by the new measure. The provision will be introduced in the next draft Finance Act, he said.
The minister assured that poor households will continue to receive assistance. “But it is time for families who have the means to make a contribution,” Daoudi added.
“The education of a medical specialist costs a million dirhams, that of an engineer between 400 and 600,000 dirhams,” he explained, adding that training in the faculty of arts costs around 30,000 dirhams.
The announcement raised alarm among many families.
Halima Cheftouni is one of them. She hopes her daughter will get into medical school. “I’ve done everything I can over the last few years so that she can achieve a grade average that will enable her to study medicine,” she said. “She got an overall average of 17. But if the decision on tuition fees is implemented, I won’t be able to afford the fees.”
“I’m a teacher, and so is her father, but our salaries are barely enough for us to make ends meet, especially since we also have three other children,” Cheftouni told Magharebia.
To ease these concerns, the minister vowed that each case would be considered individually. Only households with sufficient means would be required to pay tuition.
The state must ensure that public education remains free up to baccalaureate level, Daoudi said. “In the higher education sector, we can only look after the poor and the middle classes,” he pointed out.
Other members of the public said they were not expecting the Party of Justice and Development to take this decision, which could sap public support for the Islamist party.
“People expected social measures,” said Sofiane Chnibet. “The minister says that only well-off students will pay. But when the reform is brought in, we will see things playing out differently in practice, as happened with student grants. I myself was deprived of a grant because my father is a teacher and earns 5,000 dirhams per month, even though we have no other income and I have six brothers and sisters.”
Daoudi explained that the reform aims to raise the quality of higher education so that Moroccan families do not send their children abroad and run up crippling debts in pursuit of education.