Government Responsibilities and Directives in Higher Education in Ethiopia

The Federal government provides a block grant to universities based on student enrolment but unrelated to performance and lacking in accountability. When university education was first introduced, students were given free room and board but, since 2003, there has been cost sharing whereby the student pays full cost for room and board and a minimum of 15% of tuition fees. The government provides a loan which must be repaid, starting one year after completing the degree. Certain programs are chosen for exemption whereby students can re-pay in kind. In the case of secondary school teacher training, students can serve as teachers for a specific number of years.

The MoE has the power to grant university status to an institution if it has the potential to reach university status in an "acceptable time", which is not specified. New universities thus struggle to meet the criteria upon which they were awarded university status in advance.

The MoE ordered curriculum reforms but over-rode proposals from academics so all universities had the same mission and academics thought they had no right to make curriculum revisions. Universities could not initiate new programs without MoE permission but the MoE could choose a university and order a new program without proper curriculum development or adequate facilities and equipment. Consequently, curriculum reforms to graduate programs became unstable and this instability spread to Masters' programs. AAU was ordered to change to modular programs for all master's degrees. The MoE's directives effectively prevented universities from carrying out their mission.

The government requires universities to have 70% of students in engineering and natural science and 30% in humanities and social sciences. Students can state a preference but only those with high marks in the grade 12 exam are likely to be selected for their chosen course.