The Business Year

Hicham El Habti

MOROCCO - Health & Education

Hicham El Habti

President, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P)

Bio

Hicham El Habti is currently the President of Mohammed VI Polytechnic University. He was previously with OCP, where he served in various positions before being appointed deputy general secretary of the company. Prior to joining OCP, he undertook several strategic and managerial roles. With an educational background and an expertise in applied mathematics and economics, El Habti also holds an engineering degree from l’Ecole Normale des Pont et Chaussee, Paris in economics, management, and finance and has continued his higher educational path via management level and executive training programs.

Mohammed VI Polytechnic University is pursuing initiatives for further growth, research and innovation, and development of talent and capacities to create a lasting impact locally and regionally.

What were the main challenges faced by UM6P?

First and foremost, our objective was to guarantee the best working conditions and tools for both our students and faculty. A psychological support unit was set up in our health center and made accessible to all students, even the ones that were not on campus. We also focused on digital innovation, as UM6P has an ecosystem based on this. We noted the importance of being able to offer our help on a larger scale; therefore, contributing to support Morocco in its e-learning transition. To this end, we provided the Ministry of education with four studios to record many courses for TV broadcast. We have also set up a platform called Prépa Digitale geared toward Moroccan students in preparatory classes. The responses to this pandemic have been mainly the rapid digitalization of learning content and delivery, particularly through the Arabic channel and on the UM6P platform. In terms of research, a call for projects was launched with the participation of both public and private universities, in order to rise to the challenges. There was also support for teachers and directors of national schools, in order to assist them and facilitate their work. Another point to be highlighted is the transparent and proactive communication that has been put in place throughout this whole period.

What does “learning by doing” mean and what impact has the pandemic had on this?

“Learning by doing” is an innovative approach that is precisely what it says: carrying out an activity in order to learn from it. This means learning by practicing, creating, and so on and so forth. For example, in our mechatronics or engineering science courses, we do not offer theoretical classes, but rather, project-based learning. This would involve the construction of a robot with specifications that become increasingly complex as the year unfolds. That way, the laws of physics are picked up through discovery and experimentation, and students collaborate in work groups supervised by teachers. This is also how we proceed in the Master of Agriculture program, where students conduct their own field experiments on our 8-ha experimental farm, which is essentially a living laboratory. We have an experimentation site available to all our students in partnership with the Green Energy Park for everything related to solar energy, and we also have the Green and Smart facility for everything related to building materials, resilience, and smart mobility.

What impact will the New Development Model have on UM6P?

This new development model has come with a new vision for dealing with this major issue. It mainly involves understanding Morocco’s development objective for 2025. UM6P’s inclusion of ethical and social issues will accompany this vision through the support of excellence and social equity, which will be instantiated through a system of scholarships based on family income. Most of the students involved in these scholarship programs come from modest backgrounds and are greatly supported by UM6P to ensure social equity. The other impact of this approach is knowing how to best apply our human and physical resources for the benefit of major national projects, such as social security, which requires big data and effective evaluation.

What are your objectives and expectations for the rest of the year and for 2022?

Our objective is to continue the development of UM6P by providing all Moroccans and Africans access to excellent education. To maintain this level of excellence, our objective is, above all, to remain appealing to the core assets of our university—talented academic staff. Which is important for our research-based institution to help us respond to the major issues that the African continent must face, such as food security, sustainable exploitation of natural resources, and climate change. For 2021 and 2022, we remain on this path, in constant response to pressing national issues while attracting future research talents. In short, we aim to continue along this path to guarantee excellence and participate in the development of our country and continent. 

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