[ALGIERS] The northern node of the Pan African University (PAU) was formally launched at a meeting in the Algerian capital earlier this month (18 March).
Mokhtar Sellami, director of research programming and prospective studies at the Ministry of Higher Education, declared the campus open at the meeting in Algiers, and said applications from prospective lecturers and students would now be welcome.
The Algerian campus is the fourth of five being set up around the continent by the African Union (AU), to improve the quality of postgraduate science education and research and boost regional economic productivity.
Each of the five 'node' campuses – in east, west, central, north and southern Africa – will have a different area of specialisation.
Earth and life sciences is being hosted at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, while the sciences, technology and innovation campus is at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture in Kenya. In central Africa, Cameroon's University of Yaounde 2 will host governance, humanities and social sciences. The space sciences campus will be based in southern Africa.
Sellami told SciDev.Net : "Water, energy sciences, and climate change" will be the focus of research at the northern node, and that educational activities are expected to commence in September 2012 "with an initial 40 PhD and 50 masters students, and 40 lecturers".
While a dedicated campus is built, the University of Tlemcen in western Algeria and the University of Constantine in the east will serve as temporary campuses for students and administrative staff, Sellami said.
He said meetings are now being scheduled between "various partners from AU countries and Germany" to finalise administrative issues and curricula, and that final preparations for the university to begin operating would be completed by June.
Germany is a major partner with the AU in the PAU initiative, and a key funder for the north African node. Sellami said German experts were assisting with developing the curriculum and teaching methodology, and in selecting teaching staff.
Wahiba Bendaikha, a researcher at the Algerian Centre for Renewable Energy Development, told SciDev.Net that the Algerian campus of the PAU would be "an important asset" which would enable African researchers to build partnerships and exchange knowledge and "take advantage of German experience, especially in the field of renewable energy".
He said the full PAU, once operational, would inject a sense of dynamism into African scientific research, and create "an atmosphere of competition between the various researchers to address the main problems faced by the continent".
Mustapha Saidj, professor of International Relations at Algeria University, told SciDev.Net that the AU hoped the PAU would create a community of "African intellectual elites working on convergence and integration between the countries of the Union".