Higher Education Governance in Ethiopia

Ethiopian universities used to have collegial governance. There were three governing bodies: a) the executive body of president and department heads which implemented decisions passed by the senate, b) the senate which included professors, faculty and student representatives and was responsible for academic matters and c) the supervisory body of assemblies which provided advice to the executive. The president was the chief executive officer directing the university. The university board had overall supervision and was independent of the MoE. It selected candidates for president based on merit and made recommendations to the government.

In 2008, there was a change from the collegial model to management model with the introduction of outcomes based BPR. AAU expanded administrative posts to create a reform office and five vice-presidents. Previous faculties and schools were combined into seven colleges headed by directors reporting to the president. Faculty or school deans reported to vice-presidents. Colleges had greater autonomy from the central administration in terms of using their budgets and organizing activities. However, this did not reduce the high ratio of support staff (60%) to academic staff (40%).

Research on governance and teaching quality was conducted between 2009 and 2010 at AAU, Mekelle university (MU) and Jigjiga university (JU). MU is a young, medium-sized university upgraded from a college in 2000 and JU is one of the twelve new small recently established universities. At AAU, long serving academics considered that governance had changed from democratic to autocratic. Previously, the three university bodies were strong and provided quality assurance but now the president had all the power with assemblies reduced to meetings and only a skeleton senate remaining. There were rules and regulations but they were ignored. Leaders were quarreling among themselves and preventing any attempt at change. University leaders used to be selected on merit, from those who had come up through the system, but now they were appointed by the government and their ability was questionable. There was no control from the university board since they were government officials with their own work and little interest in the university. Increasing numbers of academic staff were failing to attend their classes and there was no one to check their attendance, research or student learning. The introduction of BPR had only produced another layer in the bureaucratic hierarchy, contrary to BPR recommendations to reduce hierarchy.

MU had implemented BPR to the extent of having policies and a one-man quality assurance office that lacked resources or support from top management. They had introduced self-evaluation but this made no difference to practice. Staff and management thought leadership lacked commitment and they noted corruption, lack of transparency, networking and inadequate evaluation of employees. The board lacked commitment and the president maintained his position by pleasing the board.

JU's governance was hampered by inexperienced staff throughout the hierarchy although top management did support their lower level staff. Quality assurance was impossible without minimal staff and facilities.

In 2012, AAU announced extensive reforms to their governance. The president would remain the chief executive officer. The post of college director would be removed and the duties undertaken by the college dean who would be chief executive officer of the college. The chain of command would be reduced from six or more layers to two layers below vice-president. The new structure would be: a) governing board, b) president with inputs from senate, managing council and university council, c) four vice-presidents, an executive director for the college of health sciences, institutes of technology and institute of peace and security studies would report to the president, d) colleges/institutes would report to the president, and e) departments/schools/centers would report to colleges/institutes. Research units which had become teaching units would revert to 75% research and 25% teaching.