2. Ecole Nationale des Sciences de l'Informatique (ENSI)


ENSI was created in 1984 by the University of Tunis II with the mission of providing undergraduate and graduate instruction in Computer Engineering. Undergraduate curriculum spans 5 years and begins with a preparatory biennium which is not run by the ENSI. Students enter the ENSI in their third year, being admitted by national selection. This curriculum was introduced nation-wide in 1994; students which were enrolled before continue with the previous curricula of 4 or 6 years. The total number of undergraduate students is 279 and the number of new enrolments has been 80 in 1996/97. It is planned that this number will be doubled in the next few years.

Graduate studies, which closely follow the French model, include "DEA", and a biennial curriculum (CESS) aimed to training high school teachers. The "DEA" is jointly run by ENSI and the Faculté des Sciences de Tunis in the framework of the "Cycle de formation doctorale en informatique" (CFDI). The present number of graduate students is 82 ( 50 DEA, 32 CESS).

The Director of ENSI is Prof. Farouk Kamoun. There are 34 faculty members, of which 4 are Professors, 21 are "Maitres Assistants" and 9 are "Assistants". Members in the last category are at the same time graduate students at the ENSI. All faculty members are involved in both teaching and research, which accounts for about 50% of their time. The research staff also includes 17 graduate students which are not faculty members. As in the preceding case, the fraction of time devoted to research is about 50%. The reason for their part-time involvement is that there are no grants to support graduate students and those which are not faculty members live out of part-time jobs outside ENSI. A limited contribution to research also comes from students working in the final project of their undergraduate studies, which spans over a full term.

Essentially, the research at ENSI is organised in the following laboratories, or projects:

(1) RSR (Networks and Distributed Systems), headed by Prof. Farouk Kamoun, with a staff of 11 (part-time). Main activity is in modelling and evaluation of networks and real-time distributed systems, electronic data interchange and multi-domain data security.

(2) PGL (Programming and Software Engineering), also headed by Prof. Farouk Kamoun, with a staff of 7 (part-time). Main activity is in methods and tools for software production and reutilisation. The team briefly demonstrated a tool (named TASMIN) to develop data and process models in a graphic environment, within the frame of the method MERISE. This tool was also demonstrated by the CNI (Centre National de l'Informatique), which contributed to its final development.

(3) RIADI (Arabisation of Software and Text Processing), headed by Prof. Mohammed Ben Ahmed, with a staff of 18 (part-time). Main activity is in arabisation of software and interfaces, in linguistic applications and in data bases and knowledge-based systems. Although research in these and related themes is widespread in other Tunisian Institutes (particularly at the IRSIT), there is no evidence of co-ordination or co-operation.

(4) LASSAS (Synthesis and simulation of VLSI architectures), headed by Dr. Abdeljelil Farza, with a staff of 3 (part-time). This small laboratory is active in the design and simulation of VLSI systems, design for testability and testability measures.

(5) LAIAAI (Artificial Intelligence and Industrial Applications), headed by Dr. Maledh Marrakchi, with a staff of 7 (part-time). Active in artificial intelligence, pattern recognition, expert systems.


For the future, it is planned to consolidate the above research areas, with some strengthening of image processing, and to begin activity in multimedia systems.

The output of research, which essentially consists of publications, is low by EU standards but may be rated appreciable considering the limited resources. The total of referred publication has been 27 in the past 5 years, 5 of which appeared in 1996 or will appear in 1997. Technical reports are not produced on a regular base.

Research funding is difficult to evaluate. Equipment and general expenses such as housing, power, telephone, etc. are accounted for in the general budget which covers teaching and research indistinctly. Salaries of faculty members are paid directly by the State. Graduate students are not paid for research and live out of part time jobs with the ENSI itself or with external employers.

This considered, there is nevertheless evidence that financial resources available for research are very limited. Funds specifically destined to research have been of the order of a mere 60 000 $ per year on the average over the past 5 years. The total funding available for investment has been a similar amount, with a tangible contribution from the World Bank. The contribution of research contracts has been negligible.

Beyond the lack of funds, major obstacles to raising the effectiveness of research at ENSI seems to be:

An effort to increase engagement in international projects and co-operation is also advisable. This goal appears within the reach of the ENSI, considering that research themes are well tuned with the international trends, and several faculty members have good connections with universities in Europe and America, due to their graduate studies abroad.