Universities in Mauritania


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About universities in Mauritania

Mauritania, officially known as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a country located in the Maghreb region of West Africa, with a total geographic area of nearly 398,000 square miles, making it the 29th largest country in the world by area.  With a population of just over 3 million, Mauritania is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, ranking 8th globally in this category.  The country is bordered in the west by the Atlantic Ocean, in the east and southeast by Mali and in the southwest by Senegal.  It is named after the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, which later became a province of the Roman Empire, even though present-day Mauritania covers a territory far to the south of the old Berber kingdom, with which it had no relation.  The capital and largest city in Mauritania is Nouakchott, located on the western Atlantic coast, and the country’s official language is Arabic, although French is also recognized regionally.

Higher Education in Mauritania:  Overview

Mauritania’s system of higher education is under the guidance and supervision of the national Ministry of Education, which is responsible for creating educational policy and for curriculum development.

Prior to 1999, the education system in Mauritania was separated into two branches or types of schools:  the Arabic branch, in which Arabic was the main language of studies, and the Bilingual branch, where the courses of study were instructed primarily in French.  In each of these two branches, only a few hours per semester were spent in the other language and the rest of the courses were taught in full Arabic or French.  This system of education lasted for twenty years, from 1979 to 1999, with the majority of students studying in the Arabic branch being the Moors from the countryside.  The more urban Puulars, Soninkes and Woloffs, on the other hand, the three largest ethnic groups, typically registered in the Bilingual branch of education.

The co-existence of these two systems was a main source of friction and conflict between the different communities of Mauritania.  Additionally, despite the efforts of the government, which used to invest nearly 25 percent of the country’s budget on education, educational standards were falling drastically year by year, and only 30 percent of the country’s students were graduating from secondary school.  To remedy this situation, the system of education underwent major reforms in 1999, which, among other things, unified the two branches into a single and more efficient system of education, one that would allow students to acquire the necessary tools for facing new challenges in an increasingly global society.

Higher Education in Mauritania:  Types of Institutions and Programs

Higher education in Mauritania is provided by several technical schools and one university located in the nation’s capital.  After earning the secondary Baccalaureate, students wishing to pursue technical education can take the entrance examination to join the College Technique, a short two-year program leading to the Brevet d'Enseignement Professionel (BEP).  Students who wish to further their technical/vocational education can do so at the Lycée Technique in a two-year program leading to the Brevet de Technicien, which is roughly the equivalent of a Bachelor degree or certification in technical studies.

University education in Mauritania is divided into three faculties:  the Faculty of Letters and Humanities, the Faculty of Law and Economics and the Faculty of Technical Sciences.  Eligible students must first earn the secondary Baccalaureate, which entitles them to enter the First Cycle of university studies, a two-year program leading to the Diplome du Premier Cycle d'Etudes Universitaires, or DEUG.  An additional two years in the Second Cycle of Education, along with the writing and presentment of a dissertation or “memoire” before a jury of academic professionals, allows students the opportunity to obtain the Matrise, the U.S. equivalent of a Master’s Degree.

In addition to university studies there are also several higher specialized schools in the country, schools which focus on just one or a limited number of academic and professional disciplines.  These include the schools of administration, publication and research, among others.

List of universities in Mauritania

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Contact: University of Nouakchott

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