SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: May 14, 2024

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Mohammed I University

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Morocco

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 14, 2024, Mohammed I University in Oujda, Morocco announced that it would suspend 10 students from the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy for two academic years for engaging in a peaceful boycott of classes.

Medical students studying at the faculties of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy at Morocco’s public universities voted to boycott classes on December 16, 2023. The vote came following two years of protests after the Moroccan Ministries of Health and Higher Education reduced the length of medical studies from seven to six years, a change that the students believe will reduce the quality of their education.

The decision to suspend the 10 students came from the university’s student disciplinary committee. The students were accused of a premeditated boycott without legal justification and of engaging in actions that disrupted university security and discipline, including occupying university facilities and using university buildings for purposes other than those for which they are intended.

Medical students were also suspended at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy in Rabat (see report) and at Abdelmalek Saadi University in Tetouan (see report). In total, disciplinary councils at public faculties of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy across Morocco summoned 67 current and former student representations, with 15 students suspended, one expelled, and others receiving warnings.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the suspension of peaceful student protesters. While university authorities have an obligation to take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of students and university personnel and should endeavor to prevent disruptions that inappropriately inhibit the functioning of or access to higher education, they must do so consistent with their responsibility to ensure academic freedom and free expression on campus. The punishment of nonviolent student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.