Algeria to fund hundreds of students to study at University of Limerick

UL says €20m ‘game changing’ English-language deal will boost international presence

Prof Tewfik Soulimane, an Algerian national who is head of chemical sciences at UL’s Bernal Institute with Dr Maireád Moriarty, assistant dean of arts, humanities and social sciences at UL. Photograph: Brian Arthur

The Algerian government is to fund hundreds of PhD students to study at University of Limerick (UL) under a deal estimated to be worth up to €20 million.

UL says the agreement is part of a move by Algeria to to move from French to English as the official language of teaching and learning in third level.

Senior academics say the deal is a “game changing” one for UL which will boost the Irish university’s international presence and impact.

The move will be supported through a specially designed PhD programme offered to visiting students at UL.


Overall the programme will see 400 Algerian PhD students study at UL during the four years of the project.

The first phase has seen 117 PhD students, the majority of whom are female, join the international PhD programme in Limerick.

UL has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Algerian ministry of education agreeing to the relationship, as well as a contract guaranteeing €5.5 million for UL on the initial intake. This is set to rise to about €20 million over four years.

Algeria has decided to change the official language of its higher education system from French to English to increase the visibility of research in its higher education institutions.

The PhD was designed after a think tank of specialists and administration officials came together to find ways to open up the international environment for Algerian universities.

Second language

Prof Helen Kelly-Holmes, executive dean and chair in applied languages, said the initiative is a “game changer in terms of our international presence and impact”.

“It builds on our strong reputation in the field of English as a second language, which is continually growing and innovating,” she said.

“We have much to learn from the co-operation with Algeria and it is a fantastic opportunity to help shape the future development of higher education in that country.”

Arezki Saidani, the Algerian ministry of education's director of co-operation and interuniversity exchanges, said it looked forward to a "long-term engagement and fruitful collaboration with the University of Limerick".

The Algerian government has been exploring ways of moving from teaching everything through the medium of French to the medium of English in recent years, including how to upskill staff in higher education, trainee teachers and current students.

UL's first engagement with the proposal came through Prof Tewfik Soulimane, an Algerian national who is the head of chemical sciences at UL's Bernal Institute.

Pitch for project

A UL delegation later travelled to Algeria to pitch for the project and was successful.

Dr Mairead Moriarty, assistant dean of arts, humanities and social sciences at UL, said its pitch included detailed presentations on how it would host the students, how the programme would look, the types of supports available for international students and how competitive UL was against other Irish and UK universities.

“We were told that they needed to start the switch and publish in English and to ensure that their education system is moved over to English quickly,” she said.

“Our job now is to bring students, who have competed nationally in Algeria for these scholarships, over to us so that they can be trained on how to teach through the medium of English while also doing a PhD at the same time.”

The project team in UL created an international PhD with a taught component of English as a medium of instruction, after which candidates will embark on three years of individual research resulting in a PhD upon completion.

On completion, it says each of the Algerian students will be well-placed to access a lecturing post when they return home.

Dr Moriarty said the programme has the potential to provide a significant economic boost for both individuals and the Algerian economy.

“Also the majority of the students are female and if you are putting women in that role of train the trainer, where society is traditionally male-dominated, that is a really strong statement made by government,” she added.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent