Historical Survey

Historical Survey




The University of Algiers went through the main following stages during the colonial period:


The School of Medical Sciences was the first higher education institution established on the Algerian soil. During this first stage, the teaching of medicine, inaugurated in 1833, was conducted by military doctors. The school started teaching physiology and structural anatomy in the Dey (former Algerian King)’s Hospital as early as 1833. These courses were initially destined to European students.

However, by a Note of the War Ministry dated 10 June 1833, the courses were open to Turkish, Moorish, and Jewish students.

This school was closed in 1835 by order of General Clauzel.

Following a recommendation made by the Municipal Council of Algiers in 1854, the School of Medicine was officially opened by a Decree issued on 4 August, 1857, under the name of Preparatory School of Medicine and Pharmacy, but its activities started only in 1859. It was placed under the aegis of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Montpellier.

Pursuant to the Law of 20 December, 1879, creating higher education institutions in Algeria, this school became the Higher School of Medicine and Pharmacy.

However, it became autonomous only by becoming the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy as a result of The Law of 30 December, 1909.

This Faculty counted among its students one who was to have an outstanding place in Algerian history, Benyoucef Benkhedda, who in 1961 became the second President of the Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic. Benkhedda registered at this Faculty in 1943, one year after joining the Algerian People’s Party (PPA) in 1942. He was however soon arrested by the colonial forces and as soon as he was liberated decided to postpone the resumption of his studies, giving precedence to the Algerian cause, getting his pharmacy degree in 1951.


It is interesting to note that as early as 1832, the teaching of the Arabic language, of Arabic literature, and of Shari’a was authorized in Algeria. One must however point out that the level of the Arabic language dispensed then was rather elementary.

This teaching was first entrusted with a military translator and so conceived as to meet the needs of the military administration. In fact, by a Royal Ordinance issued in 1839, the faculty was made subservient to the War Ministry.

Yet, these courses were the seed of the School of Letters of Algiers, and as of 1849, they were duplicated in Oran and Constantine.

On 20 December, 1879, the Higher School of Letters of Algiers was created.

Historical studies had the share of the lion by comparison to literature and philosophy.

Yet, the School ranked among the foremost centres for oriental studies.

Owing to this impetus, various institutions subservient or not to French universities were created:

in 1900, the Bouzareah College ( “Ecole Normale d’Instituteurs”); in 1900 also, the School of Commerce; in 1905, the Institute of Agricultural Studies.

In 1905 the School of Letters hosted the 8th Congress of Orientalists.

In 1909, under the Law of 30 December, 1909, it became the Faculty of Letters.


Interest in law studies was manifest as early as 1857, shaped essentially by historical considerations related to the colonial context of the period: the French administration was in need of knowing the laws and rules grounding the life of Algerian society.

At the outset, this school was located at the Casbah, and merely provided a preparation towards the Baccalauréat (high school certificate) and the “Capacité en Droit” –the degree licencing for the practice of the lawyer’s profession. A draft project for the development of the school was submitted by Professor Paul Beer between 1833 and 1876, but failed to be realized.

It is in pursuance of the Law issued on 12 December, 1879, authorizing the formal teaching of Law and the creation of a Law School that progressively, a course of studies part of the requirements for the Licence (Bachelor of Arts) degree, was established, but the examinations were held overseas ( at Aix en Provence or Montpellier). The focus of the School was Moslem law and Algerian common law.

Under the Law of 5 December, 1885, the School was authorized to organize a full-fledged course of studies leading up to that degree. As of 1889, the School also issued a Legislation Studies Certificate.

In 1909, the School became The Faculty of Law, and in 1957, it was developed to include both Law and Economics.

It remained so up until 1971, nine years after Algeria’s independence, the year of the Reform of Higher Education, when this Faculty became an Institute.


This school was created in 1868. Due to its limited means at the outset, it had to pool its efforts in certain areas with the School of Medicine.

Ever since 1880, this school organized many academic activities in the fields of geology, chemistry and botany. It played a key role in the development of agriculture. In 1909, it became the Faculty of Sciences.


This period witnessed the opening of a great number of INSTITUTES:

  • 1845: Institute of Bio-technology and Biometrics
  • 1923: Institute of Overseas Health and Medicine
  • 1931: Institute de Meteorology and Astronomic Physics
  • 1937: Institute of Saharan Studies
  • 1942: Institute of Urban Development
  • 1946: Institute of Higher Islamic Studies
  • 1949: Institute of Political Science
  • 1952: Institute of Philosophical Studies
  • 1956: Ethnology Institute
  • 1956: Institute of Nuclear Studies
  • 1957: Preparatory Business Institute

This brief survey clearly indicates that ever since the beginning and throughout the colonial era, Higher Education in Algeria was conceived to serve the interests of the colonial undertaking. From the start, teaching was Frenchified and directly made subservient to the French University.



From the year of Algerian independence to today, the University of Algiers has made great strides, particularly following the 1971 Reform of Higher Education.

In addition, while in the first years of Independence (1962), the University of Algiers relationships with other universities were still few, in spite of the international backing received in the wake of the Fire of the University Library, over the years the University has built up its integration into the international academic environment.

Let us now survey the six main stages that have characterized the growth of the University of Algiers to date:

1) 1962-1971:

The University of Algiers was the major Algerian University. It hosted the essential disciplines (exact sciences and technology, medical sciences, social and human sciences).

2) 1971-1974:

This period was inaugurated by the Reform of Higher Education, the introduction of the national language in all the disciplines, and the total Arabization of certain branches of the social sciences (in a first stage, philosophy and history).

3) 1974-1978:

The University of Exact Sciences and Technology at Boumerdes (Algiers) –USTHB--was opened on 24 January, 1978, which entailed the closing of the Faculty of Sciences, previously subservient to the University of Algiers.


During this period, Arabization was extended to all the disciplines and new Institutes were created:

  • The Institute of Library Science;
  • The Institute of Physical and Sports Education;
  • The Institute of Islamic Sciences


The medical sciences became autonomous as early as September, 1984,when the former Institutes of Medical Sciences, Dentistry, and Pharmacy were brought together as the National Institute of Higher Medical Sciences (INESSM: Institut National des Sciences Médicales). The University of Algiers became specialized in the social sciences and the humanities.

The University was organized into Institutes. It included:

  • The Institute of Legal and Administrative Studies (Law)
  • The Institute of Economics
  • The Institute of Foreign Languages
  • The Institute of Arabic Language and Letters
  • The Institute of Sociology
  • The Institute of Psychology and Education
  • The History Institute
  • The Philosophy Institute
  • The Institute of Political Sciences and International Relations
  • The Institute of Information and Communication
  • The Institute of Archaeology
  • The Institute of Physical and Sports Education
  • The Institute of Library Science
  • The Institute of Translation and Interpretation.

6) 1998 to this year:


Under Executive Decree no 98-382 of 12/12/1998, amending the 84-209 Decree of 18 August, 1984, providing the Organization of the University of Algiers and its Management, the University of Algiers was broken down into FACULTIES as follows:

  • The Law Faculty
  • The Faculty of Economics and Management Sciences
  • The Faculty of Medicine
  • The Faculty of Social Sciences
  • The Faculty of Letters and Languages
  • The Faculty of Religious Studies

Note that during this period, the teaching of Medicine and Religious studies, previously autonomous, were integrated into the University of Algiers.


In 2001, under Executive Decree 01-264 dated 18 September, 2001, amending Decree 84-209 of 18 August,1998 on the Re-Organization and New Management of the University of Algiers, a Faculty of Political Sciences and Information was established and the Faculty of Religious Studies’ name was changed into the Faculty of Islamic Sciences.

The University of Algiers thus was made to consist of these seven Faculties:

  • The Law Faculty
  • The Faculty of Economic Sciences and Management
  • The Faculty of Medicine
  • The Faculty of Human and Social Sciences
  • The Faculty of Political Sciences and communication
  • The Faculty of Letters and Languages
  • The Faculty of Islamic Sciences.

Recent legislation also provided for the creation of University extensions in or outside Algiers, and for the creation of institutes (cf. Executive Decree 03-279 of 23 August, 2003), bringing about the advent of two Institutes:

  • The institute of Archaeology
  • The institute of Physical and Sports Education

Z) 2009:

AMENDMENTS AFFECTING THE UNIVERSITY OF ALGIERS UNDER EXECUTIVE DECREE NO.09-342 of 03 Dhou El Kaada 1430/ 22 October 2009 amending Decree n°84-209 of 18 August, 1984 , on the organization and running of the University of Algiers.

This Decree modifies the number of Faculties making up the University of Algiers, henceforth consisting of:

Missions of the Faculties composing the University of Algiers are set as follows: · The faculty of law · The faculty of medicine · The faculty of Islamic Sciences.



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