Education Sector Development Program V The introduction of higher education in Ethiopia began in the mid-1960s. It is only in that past fifteen years, however, due to the government’s and development partners’ commitment to prioritising the sub-sector, that access to higher education has opened to the wider population.
Access and equity
In the past ten years, the government has demonstrated continued commitment to expanding equitable access to quality and relevant higher education. Since 2004/05, the number of public higher education institutions has increased, from 8 to 36 (33 take students directly from grade twelve), distributed across all regions of the country. Private higher education institutions have also expanded, reaching 98 institutions in total, accommodating around 15% of all student enrolment by the end of the ESDP IV period.
This extra capacity has allowed rapid increases in intake. Undergraduate enrolment (government and private) rose from 447,693 in 2010/11, to 593,571 in 2013/14. Against a target of 90%, the transition rate from grade twelve stands at 84% in 2014/15. Of total enrolment, 57% of students now participate in regular undergraduate classes and 43% in a combination of distance, summer and extension courses. Likewise, total Masters’ enrolment in public higher education institutions increased from 7,211 in 2007/08 to 27,643 in 2013/14. Recently private institutions began enrolling postgraduate students and now they accommodate 3,000 masters’ students.
Consequently, the total enrolment at this level reached 30,643 by the end of ESDP IV. Enrolment in third degree programmes (Doctorate) has increased from a low base of only 258 in 2007/08 to 3,169 in 2013/14. Doctorate candidates are enrolled predominantly in public institutions with only one private university receiving Doctorate students. New universities are being established to provide equitable geographic distribution across the regions, to provide benefit to all from higher education’s broader development effect on a local economy.
The proportion of females in higher education needs to increase. The share of female students at undergraduate level has now reached 32% and in 2015 the intake rate was 38% female. The number of female students eligible for higher education is constrained by the number of girls who complete grade twelve. In addition, the gender-sensitivity of curriculum and/or teaching in general education means that, from the pool of females that do sit the grade twelve examination, performance is poor (19% of females reaching a mark of 350 versus 36% of males in 2013/14).
Affirmative action strategies are in place but the pool of females that are formally prepared to enter higher education is small. The share of female academic staff and females in leadership positions remains far below plan, with no progress since 2009/10 in terms of females in leadership roles. Quality Many students joined higher education institutions with results below the 50% threshold in the higher education entrance examinations.
Also, in physics, a basis for engineering studies, students’ results are extremely low. To compound this, the graduation rate of regular undergraduate students is as low as 79%. This, perhaps, implies a low quality of instruction or perceived low relevance of the higher education courses being offered. It could also be a reflection of the low-quality of students introduced to higher education, who, irrespective of teaching quality, have not been prepared for learning at this level.
To improve the quality of the teaching and learning process several initiatives have been implemented including harmonising curricula for all of the undergraduate programmes, adopting a modular approach for course delivery so as to enhance active learning, instituting Quality Assurance Offices at each university and equipping libraries and laboratories. In addition, the Ethiopian Qualification Framework is nearly complete and the Ethiopian Education and Research Network, a two billion birr project is well underway and expected to be completed by 2015. In spite of massive resource allocations to higher education, universities still report insufficient supplies of text and reference books, laboratory and workshop equipment and access to ICT facilities.
The teacher-student ratio has improved considerably recently, reaching 1:16 in 2014 when only students enrolled in regular classes are considered (when students of regular and non-regular classes are considered, the ratio rises to (1:23).
This compares favourably with international standards (1:19) and the experiences of similar countries. The qualification mix of these 21,109 staff, however, has implications for quality of instruction. Given the target of 0:70:30 (Bachelor: Masters’: Doctorate degree holders, respectively), so far only a ratio of 27:58:15 has been achieved.
The supply of teaching staff with postgraduate qualifications has not kept pace with the increase in student enrolment. As a result, a large share of undergraduate students is taught by staff with a bachelor’s degree. If university intake capacity continues to expand at the current rate, it must be assured that sufficient staff, with an appropriate skills mix to provide quality instruction, will be available.
Research, technology transfer and community engagement
Financial support to research is low. In 2011/12, the research allocation of all universities accounted for only 1% of their total budget. In addition, there are limited numbers of personnel available to conduct high quality research and higher education research is conducted predominantly by postgraduate students.
To improve the relevance of research and technology development for societal and national development needs, institutions have identified their thematic research areas considering their staff profile, topics of excellence and local needs. On completion of the National Research Undertaking Framework and sorting National Research Priorities, institutions will be supported through provision of funding for innovation, perhaps on a contestable basis. In addition, a national forum co-chaired by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the MoE has been formed to enable institutions to collaborate with industries and mega-project implementers in their respective development corridors. Efforts to form business incubation centers at the institutes of technology and science and technology universities are progressing well; and these may serve as valuable sources for income generation.