Petition to Magna Charta Universitatum in support of University of Tifariti-Western Sahara

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The University of Tifariti is the first and sole University institution of the Sahrawi people. It is located in the Free Territories of the Western Sahara and has been established under Presidential Decree 24/2012 adopted by the then President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Mr. Mohamed Abdelaziz.

Since its foundation, the University of Tifariti has aimed to become a leading agent in the social change of the people of Western Sahara, to provide comprehensive and quality programs to the benefit of Western Sahara’s people and to make teaching and research its primary objectives.

Despite the clear difficulties arisen from the specific context where it is based and the need for support from humanitarian aid and solidarity of friendly universities and associations, the University has made extensive efforts to meet its objectives and now represents a primary agent for the social improvement in such a difficult field.

The University has been able to attract 450 undergraduate students so far and has engaged almost 90 academics. It hosts four University Centres: the School of Nursing, the School of Administration and Computer Science, the Pedagogical Institute of Teachers and Professors, the Institute of Information and Journalism. A new one, the Faculty of Law, will be established soon.

The University is an autonomous institution, where all the staff is engaged in a continuous process of improvement and expansion. Its governance benefits of a collective dimension and all actors involved, including Professors and students, are duly represented within its main bodies. It enjoys full freedom in research and teaching activities and complies with the same criteria as any other University around the world.

Such a standing is confirmed by the wide international network which the University of Tifariti can benefit from. The University of Tifariti has signed agreements with more than 54 universities around the world and entertains relationships with an important number of other Universities or University Associations, such as the Confederation of Rectors of Spanish Universities (“CRUE”). Thanks to the cooperation of so many universities and other institutions, the University of Tifariti aspires to succeed and achieve its objectives developed in the Strategic Plan (2016/2020) for the improvement of teaching, research and infrastructures.

Such an international support is of extreme importance. The University of Tifariti has very limited resources and means. It depends almost entirely from the humanitarian aid and solidarity of other universities and friendly associations.

The University of Tifariti has recently expressed the will to join the Magna Charta Universitatum (http://www.magna-charta.org/ However, the delicate situation concerning the status of the territories of the Western Sahara has raised a number of concerns among members of the Council of the Magna Charta, the Governing Body of the Institution.

We strongly believe that the application of the University of Tifariti should not be mixed up with the political situation in the field. While being aware of the difficult situation determined by the long standing conflict that opposes the two sides involved (https://minurso.unmissions.org/ we are firmly convinced that the application of the University of Tifariti should be regarded as any other application coming from any other independent, duly established, academic institutions.

As proved by the presence among the signatories of the Magna Charta Universitatum of a number of Universities located in territories affected by similar controversial situations (http://www.magna-charta.org/signatory-universities there are no obstacles of any kind that would prevent the University of Tifariti to join the Magna Charta. Given the values enshrined in the Magna Charta, it cannot be otherwise. Therefore, contrary to what some seem to believe, rejecting the request of the University of Tifariti would have an undoubted and unjustified political meaning, inconsistent with the values promoted by the Magna Charta itself.

As proved by its constitution and activities, the University of Tifariti shares the same values informing the Magna Charta Universitatum, which are the values of autonomy, independency, freedom in research and training, tolerance and dialogue, humanity and universality together with responsiveness to the needs of the local population.

As our colleagues of the University of Tifariti, we share the same values and we all belong to the same academic community. Therefore, as many other Universities and colleagues, we strongly support the application of the University of Tifariti.  

We are convinced that joining the Magna Charta Universitatum is an important step for the University of Tifariti in the future. The University of Tifariti will greatly benefit from being part of the Magna Charta Universitatum community and from being assisted by its Observatory, that is the guardian of university’s fundamental values. Supporting its application will have an extraordinary value for the University itself and for all the Universities belonging to the network of the Magna Charta Universitatum.

It will allow the sole University of Western Sahara to be part of this universal academic community and its Magna Charta. This would be an incredible outcome for an Institution that tries to invest its limited resources in higher education with the objective to educate younger generations and introduce them to university’s values.

For all these reasons, we expect the Council of the Magna Charta Universitatum to positively consider the application of the University of Tifariti, on the agenda for the next Council meeting, scheduled for September 18 and 19.

Network of academics and researchers in support of the University of Tifariti

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