Students of media and communications in Algeria say the lack of practical facilities in most universities denies them the work experience needed to get a job. Teaching staff complain that this has led to the growth of expensive and sometimes inadequate private training centres.
In four years as an audio-visual student at the University of Batna 1, in eastern Algeria, Hanan Jinan did not once use a camera or a microphone.
“My university education was limited to the theoretical aspect,” she told Al-Fanar Media.
Jinan is not alone in this. Many Algerian universities lack radio or television studios, and media and communication graduates are forced to turn to training centres before applying for jobs.
Jinan described this as “clear injustice against students, who find themselves media and communication graduates in name only.”
She added: “The lucky ones among my colleagues are those who got the chance to be trained in one of the national and regional radio stations, or the headquarters of public and private TV channels. Otherwise, the vast majority of students have neither used the camera nor tried the microphone throughout their studies.”
Hichem Bouarouri, a Ph.D. student in media and communication at Mohamed Lamine Debaghine Sétif 2 University, is among those who enrolled in a private school to gain work experience. His institution was run by Karim Boussalem, one of Algeria’s best-known television presenters, who died of Covid-19 in July at the age of 49.
Practical training is important because it prepares graduates to work. “Unfortunately, this is what Algerian universities lack, apart from two or three faculties throughout the country.”Hichem Bouarouri
A Ph.D. student in media and communication at Mohamed Lamine Debagine Sétif 2 University
Bouarouri told Al-Fanar Media that practical training is the most important part of media and communication studies because it enables graduates to seek work. “Unfortunately, this is what Algerian universities lack, apart from two or three faculties throughout the country,” he added.
Bouarouri said “media outlets’ requirement of work experience … pushes graduates to join private training academies.”
Private institutions charge as much as $200 per course, which few students can afford.
Lack of Practical Training
Yamin Boudhan, a recently appointed professor of media at Qatar University, thinks that the lack of practical facilities in Algerian universities has “opened the door for some opportunists to exploit students, to drain their pockets while providing weak training by journalists with limited experience.”
Practical training is absent from the curricula at Algeria’s media departments, Boudhan said.
“Most of these departments have no audio-visual training studios, which deprives courses of the fieldwork spirit, which is essential in this field,” he said.
Boudhan blamed “the lack of interest on the part of Higher Education Ministry and university officials to devote an applied approach to teaching programs, despite students and professors’ demands for years.”
Abdelali Yousefi, a professor of mass communication at Mohamed Boudiaf University, in M’Sila, south of Algiers, agreed that theoretical training alone was “not appropriate for a major that depends mainly on field practice.”
Media students need to be “behind the radio microphone, in front of the camera in television studios, or on the street,” he said. Practical work “determines their abilities to be future media professionals.”
Yousefi believes, moreover, that practical fieldwork is the best way to assess media students at all levels.
Agreements with Broadcast Stations
Many Algerian colleges and institutes of media and communication have signed agreements with national and regional radio or television stations, so students can apply what they have learned in theory.
Media students need to be “behind the radio microphone, in front of the camera in television studios, or on the street.”Abdelali Yousefi
A professor of mass communication at Mohamed Boudiaf University, in M’Sila
But Rouqayya Bensari, a media and communication student at the University of Setif, says studio visits usually come at the end of a course, and are limited to five days, three hours per day.
Students spend half the time getting to know the departments and structures of the media institution, she said. Only a few get the opportunity to use the camera or microphone, or to go out and do street work.
Yousefi agrees that studio visits are not enough, given the short duration and the thousands of graduates annually.
Opportunities for such training vary. Bouarouri said he had met colleagues in universities in Algiers, and in the cities of Oran and Annaba, who had field studies in well-equipped studios. “Others dream of a mere three-day training opportunity,” he said.
Cost Hurdles for Universities
Financial obstacles are among the top reasons why establishing studios in media faculties and departments are far from the priorities of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
Yousefi noted that the construction of studios requires large sums of money, especially in light of the huge advances in developing technological tools.
But, “before the obstacle of the budget, there is a need for a will to fortify this major by providing direct practice to students,” he said.
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It took “intense communications and pressure on the administration” at Mohamed Boudiaf University before his department managed to set up its own radio station, he went on.
“Thanks to help from a local radio station in M’sila, our university was able in 2018 to establish Al-Atheer Radio and enable students to put what they studied in practice.”