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World Bank support to Higher Education will help students in Mali find better jobs

May 7, 2015

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2015 – The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a US$14 million credit and a US$19 million grant to improve the quality of selected programs and the overall management of higher education in Mali.

Today’s financing for the Mali Higher Education Support Project includes activities to strengthen the governance of higher education institutions and to develop new programs that are consistent with labor market demands, increasing the likelihood that graduates will be able to obtain good jobs.

“It is expected that the project will directly benefit about 20,000 students and, indirectly, all of the 110,000 students currently enrolled in higher education. It is also expected to modernize education work environments, and improve the skills and experience for more than 1,000 academic staff and administrators to make them more competitive in the sub-region’s labor market”, said Pierre Joseph Kamano, World Bank Task Team Leader for the Project.

To meet the demand of the labor market, programs in selected higher education institutions will be developed to include quality measures and better governance of finances and management.  It will also help strengthen the higher education system so that it can effectively plan and implement reforms, monitor the quality and relevance of programs, and provide accurate data for policy decisions.

Mali’s fragile economy has been impaired by structural obstacles to growth, including a poor investment climate, weak infrastructure, and inadequate skills, particularly among young workers. A critical challenge will be to address the low qualifications of the labor force in Mali’s emerging formal labor market.

“Around 65 percent of Malians have no education and the average schooling among adults is 2.4 years. The status quo does not adequately address the needs of existing employers in the formal sector who complain of persistent difficulties in recruiting appropriately skilled workers. It also undermines the county’s potential for growth and economic diversification while hindering poverty reduction,” said Paul Noumba um, World Bank Country Director for Mali.

The skills shortage has been brought to the forefront with   the increased demand for specialized workers from industries experiencing rapid growth (extractive industries, energy, water, infrastructure, and in other key services) and increased vacancies. Low levels of labor productivity undermine the economic performance of the informal sector. The mismatch between the level of skills demanded by the labor market and that of workers seeking employment intensified after the recent crisis.

Higher education is also confronted with gaps in its governance. Low supply and poor quality of educational tools are symptomatic of poor resource utilization. The bulk of its budget is allocated to students’ welfare and extra teaching hours. Improving the financing structure for higher education will allow these institutions to efficiently allocate their own budgets in support of improved teaching and innovation.

In addition, higher education in Mali lacks performance standards for learning institutions. It also has low levels of accountability for results and limited institutional autonomy (reforms to rectify this are currently underway). Improving institutional autonomy while increasing accountability will help improve the management of higher education institutions and create conditions for alternative sources of revenue.

The higher education sub-sector system also suffers from the absence of a comprehensive regulatory and financing framework to support the development of private higher education institutions and university-industry linkages. Despite the existence of an accreditation system for private institutions, there are no incentives or regulations in place to allow them to access land or financing (private or public). Improving incentives for the participation of private higher education institutions will help Mali diversify its program.

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