I've been doing some basic informational interviews on higher education here in Tunisia, and I am more convinced that Tunisia-Jordan make a great comparison, as the countries higher education systems are so interesting in their own ways, but also so different.
Admissions to higher education is essentially the starting point for students' entry into the system, and for that reason, is important for me to understand -- after all, if students are able to study what they want to study, and for free, in the public system, then the draw of the private system is greatly reduced. Moreover, I found admissions to higher education in Jordan to be a complicated and highly political process.
In Tunisia, higher education is still dominated by the public system, which forces me to ask: who is founding private higher education? Who is attending? Why do they choose to attend, etc.
Admissions here in Tunisia is quite different, as it does not have "affirmative action" that the universities in Jordan had. Instead, based on their score on the Bac (exit exam), students are sorted into one of three application pools. Students with the best scores get the "pink" pool, and get to apply first -- they can apply for a seat in any university and program they want in the country, and get to list up to 10 choices. However, most tend to pick the technical fields such as medicine and engineering (as in Jordan, Syria, etc).
Then come anyone with a "green" pool, then "white". By "white" typically there are only less prestigious programs left, like Islamic Law, and other humanities.
Tunisia does offer scholarships to students as well, it offers a substantial number of scholarships, and free room and board at certain universities. These scholarships are managed by a certain Ministry, and given to students based on their familly income -- not other factors. This system certainly seems more meritocratic than Jordan, in terms of its desire to seek out equality. Of course, Tunisia is a very different country, and does not have the historic tribal balances to maintain, nor the need to balance between Palestinians and East Bank Jordanians.
In terms of private higher education, what I am finding is that private universities here are in little demand because public universities really are free (possibly students have to pay about 20 dollars?) and yet, they serve a large number of students from sub-Saharan Africa, for whom coming to Tunisia is a much cheaper alternative than Europe or elsewhere, and where instruction is in French. This is an area where I need much more information...who attends private universities? What niche do they serve?