By Olivier Pieume and Koffi Segniagbeto, IIEP Pôle de Dakar


A new IIEP Pôle de Dakar research study is looking at how to better align higher education with a changing economy.

While higher education in Mauritania is overall less developed than nearby countries, the sector is also characterized by a large number of students who are pursuing long-cycle higher education rather than short cycle. For example, 72 per cent of higher education graduates have a diploma equivalent or higher than a master’s degree, according to the 2013 general population and housing census. This appears inconsistent with the realities of the economy where informal employment stands at 85 per cent. The Mauritanian situation is rather unique. Even in OECD countries where the informal sector is weak, the majority of higher education graduates have diplomas below or equal to a bachelor's degree. 

To better match higher education with the economy, both a diversification of vocational programmes and improved management of entering students are required. This could include short courses that respond to market needs. Projections show that by 2030, most jobs for graduates will come from the manufacturing, water and energy sectors. The number of jobs requiring higher education qualifications in these sectors is expected to increase six times over the next fifteen years (Table 1). On the other hand, the fishing and mining sectors are expected to see one quarter of jobs disappear. 

If the coverage of higher education in Mauritania is less compared to similar countries, the sector’s expansion will have to be achieved through the development of short vocational training that is more labour intensive. To do this, the subsector must have a real academic and professional outlook integrated into its structure. Otherwise, it will remain a missed opportunity for students. For example, it can take up to five years for half of a graduating class each year to find a job placement, according to an IIEP Pôle de Dakar 2012 national survey. Both during studies and after graduation, students lack access to information on the opportunities offered in the labour market. This is a major barrier to better integrating graduates into the Mauritanian economy. 


Figure 1


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