Call for participation
April 24, 2008
I am writing to invite you to take part in a major initiative in higher education in Ethiopia. The overall objective of the Strategic Plan of Addis Ababa University (AAU) is to produce 5,000 PhD graduates over the next 10 years, and to establish some 14 Centers of Excellence in research and teaching in key prioritized areas. Achieving this goal will require a radical and innovative approach. Since MA/MSc holders are the great majority of academic staff in public and private universities in Ethiopia, the launching of this large-scale PhD initiative is imperative.
This letter includes a brief background of higher education in Ethiopia, a summary of the strategic planning and initiative for PhD programs in Ethiopia, and an invitation to attend an International Workshop on June 19-21, 2008. This historic meeting will be held at a new university campus completely dedicated to PhD programs in Ethiopia.
Brief Background of Higher Education in Ethiopia. Higher education in Ethiopia started with the founding of Addis Ababa University (AAU) in 1950. With its several colleges in the various regions, AAU remained as the only higher learning institution in Ethiopia for over forty years. Over the last decade, however, fundamental changes have been taking place in higher education in Ethiopia. Some of the former colleges under AAU were upgraded to full-fledged and independent universities, and 11 new universities are being established. This brings the total number of universities in the country to 22. As a result, enrollment to higher education has increased significantly.
With the expansion of higher education in Ethiopia, AAU has been entrusted with the critical task of providing highly trained PhD graduates for itself and the other universities. To this end, AAU has shifted its mission from being a primarily undergraduate/teaching institution to research/graduate training university.
In terms of graduate education, graduate programs started at AAU in 1978. Over the last thirty years, a total of about 9200 students graduated from the School of Graduate Studies, of which only 66 (<1%) were PhDs, and 60% of the recipients of graduate degrees graduated in the last three years because of AAUÕs recent efforts to expand graduate education. Thus, graduate enrollment has increased from a few hundred students to several thousands. Graduate student enrollment is currently at 6,000 students, and by the year 2010, the projected intake is expected to increase to 12,000. At present, there are a total of 146 graduate programs (94 Masters, 27 PhD, 14 Clinical Specialty Certificate, 1 Clinical Specialty Diploma, 1 Postgraduate Certificate and 1 Postgraduate Diploma) at AAU. Of the 27 PhD programs, 15 of them have begun in just the last year!
At present, among the difficulties that the higher education system is facing, the shortage of qualified academic staff is the most important. In order to qualify as a university, the Higher Education Proclamation (N0 351/2003) of Ethiopia stipulates that at least 30% of the faculty should be PhD holders among the academic staff. Even at Addis Ababa University that can claim the best-trained educators, PhD holders count for less than 25% of its Ethiopian academic staff. Addis Ababa University can only meet the 30% requirement through the employment of expatriate staff, and the recognition of MD and special certificate holders equivalent to PhD holders. The situation is even more dismal in the newly established universities. As of today, the need for of qualified PhD holders in public universities alone is estimated to be around 3,000. Recruiting expatriate staff from different countries on a contractual basis cannot bridge this gap because EthiopiaÕs ability to attract highly qualified and experienced expatriate staff from the international labor market remains a major difficulty due to international competition.
Strategies adopted by Ethiopia to develop its human resources at the PhD level in the past focused either on sending graduate students abroad for full-time academic programs, or using the Òsandwich model, with degrees offered jointly by AAU and foreign universities, with students taking all or part of their coursework in other countries. These two models of graduate and doctoral education have produced only a very limited number of the qualified staff needed by the country. These approaches have severe limitations; both are costly and moreover, after completing their studies a significant number of graduate degree holders fail to return to Ethiopia. Thus, AAU is assuming the responsibility for graduate education in Ethiopia, thereby strengthening the overall higher education capacity of the country!
Strategic Planning and the Initiative for PhD Programs in Ethiopia. At Addis Ababa University, officials have been working for several years to develop this idea. AAU formulated its five year Strategic Plan during 2006/07. This strategic planning process was comprehensive. It consisted of a series of consultative meetings with students, academic and administrative staff. Important academic, research and administrative issues were identified and analyzed. Stakeholders representing government, private sector, and international institutions were consulted during the strategic planning process. The draft plan was enriched through these discussions and recommendations have been incorporated in the final document.
The University's Strategic Plan clearly indicates that the major option for national capacity building to produce highly qualified human resources—both in quality and in numbers—is launching local PhD programs at a large-scale at AAU. Moreover, the approach used at AAU during the last three years in the expansion of graduate education at the MA/MSc level, should also be replicated at the PhD level. Addis Ababa University is designated as the most suitable national institution to accomplish this task because of its recent but ample experience in developing new postgraduate programs, research, and international relations with several leading universities around the world.
As previously noted, the overall objective of the Strategic Plan of the University is to produce 5,000 PhD graduates in 10 years, and to establish some 14 Centers of Excellence in research and teaching in key prioritized areas. Our vision has been articulated as AAU Aspires to be a Preeminent African Research University. To realize this vision, AAU will develop and offer graduate programs, especially PhD programs covering all relevant fields. This will include disciplinary as well as multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary programs. And, in so doing, AAU will link its PhD programs to areas of thematic research. During the plan period—that is, over the next 5 years—the number of PhD programs is to increase to about 85 (about 65 disciplinary-based and about 20 transdisciplinary PhD programs).
With such an expansion of programs, there is a concern that the quality might be compromised. According the Higher Education Relevance and Quality Assurance Agency (HERQA) of Ethiopia, all higher education institutes need to perform an internal quality audit. AAU is to undertake such an internal self assessment, as per pre-specified guidelines developed by the Agency. Another attempt to ensure the quality of the proposed academic programs is the development of Academic Development Resource Centers (ADRCs) in all higher education institutes. These units will provide instructional and other pedagogic skills for faculty. In addition, they will establish benchmarks for quality, to which all academic programs need to adhere. A continuous monitoring and evaluation of all new and old programs will be made to ensure the quality of programs and candidates. At the same time, realizing its own limitations to run the envisaged in-house PhD programs, AAU is attempting to bridge the gap in faculty shortage by facilitating various faculty recruitment schemes such as joint-appointments; employing expatriate staff; visiting scholars; staff-exchange from partner institutes; and forming consortia among colleges and universities outside of Ethiopia.
International Consortia for PhD Programs in Ethiopia. The development of international consortia for PhD programs in Ethiopia is a major part of the overall strategy, and one that will, in many ways, shape the ability of AAU to rapidly expand its graduate programs and research. The capacity of the international consortia will be developed through partnerships and networking with universities throughout the world based on areas of mutual interest that may exist between AAU and its Strategic Plan and universities outside of Ethiopia.
The consortias role is multifaceted. This may include offering joint PhD degrees; provision of international faculty services through block teaching of PhD courses in one-month segments; distance teaching; short-term intensive seminars; advising/co-advising of doctoral dissertations; access to facilities of higher education outside of Ethiopia for PhD students (e-library, laboratory, etc); and facilitating short-term exposure to their universities for PhD candidates from Ethiopia.
To start the development of the international consortia component of AAU's strategic initiative, AAU will convene an international workshop. The workshop aims to achieve the following six major objectives:
1) Develop consortia for each academic track (Health Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities, Science and Technology, Development Studies, Administration Sciences, Art and Design Studies, etc;
2) Discuss collectively among members of consortia the identification of common research areas;
3) Identify the comparative advantage for each institution engaged in the consortia;
4) Develop working and management modalities of the consortia;
5) Comment and refine draft PhD curricula and plan new PhD curricula to be developed (PhD curriculum already developed by AAU faculty will be sent prior to the workshop);6) Plan the next five years of major engagements of each partner institution (faculty availabilities in block teaching or other modalities, advising PhD students, defining research tracks for PhD students, mapping available resources for advising PhD students, identifying new members to strengthen the consortia, and so on).
As one of the leading academic/research institute/major partner/international organization with a longstanding partnership with Addis Ababa University—or as a new potential partner for consortia development through AAU's large-scale PhD program initiative—we cordially invite you to send your delegate(s) to the International Workshop to be held in Addis Ababa from 19th to 21st June 2008.
Prof. Andreas Eshete
Please note that AAU will cover the total local costs of participants, and extends other forms of support as required.
The workshop venue will be in the New Campus of AAU at Akaki which is dedicated to the PhD programs of Addis Ababa University.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact:
Dr. Abye Tasse
Associate Vice President for Strategic Planning and International Affairsabyetas@aau.edu.et, email@example.com
Cell phone:+251 911 24 25 38
+25111 123 10 84 or +251 11 123 97 50
Prof. Tsige Gebre-Mariam,Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research
firstname.lastname@example.org +251 911 24 25 55
+251 11 123 97 56
Comments and Expresson of Support
International Workshop on PhD Programs at Addis Ababa University-My Comments and Points of Views
Abebe Kebede, Workshop Participant
I attended religiously the workshop for three days. The workshop was well attended. I counted 680 people during the first day. I arrived during the presentation by a university official. Unfortunately I missed the first one or two pep talks. The presentation by AAU graduate school basically read the announcement. This is followed by 30-minute appearances of the deans, describing their plans to contribute to the proposed training of 5000 PhDs. Each has his (most are men) own ambitious programs but rarely mentioning the needs of the departments to accomplish their goals. For example there is no mention of their financial and faculty needs. There is no mention of how to recruit the PhD candidates, or the systematic by which the quality of the incoming students is assured. For example there is no mention of the improvement in Undergraduate students, which in turn relates to the overall improvement of the preparatory schools. It appears that these improvements are considered to be consequences of good PhD programs or there is no need to improve them because only 5% of the incoming freshmen qualify to be admitted to a university in Ethiopia. This over selection and abundance of potential freshmen may have given AAU the comfort not talk about the quality of incoming students. Be it as it may AAU is determined to produce in house trained 5000 PhDs in 10 years by any means necessary. AAU is banking on the past and current institutional relationships and research collaborations initiated by individual researchers. I discovered that each unit and the staff members were asked to submit the names of their collaborators, with a clear definition of the research and training program. This became clear to me after the second day. We spent the morning and the afternoon of the June 19th, listening to the presentations by the deans. There was no room for Q&A. The proposed programs from most of the faculties follow rigid departmental curricula, and there is no room for cross-disciplinary research and education. This follows the tradition of fencing one’s property. As one can observe in the city of Addis, where each property owner fences his and her property, each department has fenced itself with an iron bars. The exceptions might be those in health sciences, and possibly veterinary medicine and pharmacy. It is said that there were 120 people from Abroad including people from Austria, Italy, USA, Sweden, Canada, India and Germany. Some of them came with plans by virtue of their prior collaborations. These include individuals and institutions from Canada (Health Sciences), Sweden (Condensed Matter Physics) and Austria (Chemistry), Botswana (Chemistry), Sudan (Polymer Physics). Other came looking for potential collaboration. AAU has requested 30% of the cost, about nine million dollars per year from Sweden for the next ten years. The total cost for the project is about 300 million dollars for 10 years. The university is heavily relying on existing collaboration that in my view is a good idea, as it takes some time to start new ones.
I cannot tell why AAU limited itself to this small funding. Ethiopia is a big country and a large population. Each new university needs to develop its own programs and become self sufficient in staffing its departments. Therefore the budget should have been the number of universities multiplied by 300 million. This means the goals must be to raise 2 billion in capital.
AAU and its wish list
According to the workshop announcement AAU wishes to produce 5,000 PhD graduates over the next 10 years and to establish some 14 Centers of Excellence in research and teaching in key prioritized areas. There are lists of specific disciplines that are on their way to establish such centers. But the functions of such centers, the specific research and education programs that they will undertake were not clearly defined. There was only one mention of ‘Center of Excellence” during the report of the medical faculty. I agree that the research and education programs will be defined or are being defined by the specific disciplines but it would have been beneficial to deal with specific research and education priorities. This coupled with no discussion on the curriculum itself left many to wonder what exactly AAU trying to do.
Recruiting students and retaining the PhDs
According to AAU, since its inception, a total of about 9200 students graduated from the School of Graduate Studies, most with MS degrees and less than 1% with PhDs. I believe this is an excellent justification to increase the capacity of AAU to produce more. It appears that AAU has no problem recruiting qualified students and it is possible to raise the recruitment from the current level 6000 to 12000 by 2010. AAU enjoys the fact that it has no serious local rival and it can easily attract the cream of the crop to its MS and PhD programs. While the hard working student at AAU will make sure to stay in the program, it is likely that most of these students will leave abroad for graduate opportunities before they finish their studies. Most of those who finish will leave the Ethiopian university system for post doc and good paying positions within the country and abroad. In the workshop announcement it is stated that Ethiopia’s ability to attract highly qualified and experienced expatriate staff from the international labor market remains a major difficulty due to international competition. I hope that this does not imply that locally produced PhDs are cheaper than those coming from outside. AAU appears to ignore facts about the global nature of higher education. Ethiopian students at any stage of their careers, whether they just finished college, or they are in their post-graduate work, qualify to join any graduate program in the world. This is to say that there is a single Higher Education System, a single market for talent, and higher education is global. What this means is that unless there is a significant change in the current level of support for research and education, and the current state of or the perceived state of faculty welfare, the new PhDs will choose to leave Ethiopian University system and the country. The issues that must be addressed immediately are competitive salaries, housing and schools for the children of these young PhDs. Unless there is a plan to fence the border, AAU must assume that most of these young PhDs may leave, and it should begin preparing to systematically tap their talent. This is not farfetched. Among the participants were several Ethiopians from abroad. They came from Western Michigan State University, University of Maryland, NC A&T, National Science Foundation, Ohio State University, Florida A&M (by proxy), Morgan State University, from institutions in Sweden, Austria, Canada, Germany and United Kingdom. AAU failed to acknowledge the small but significant works by Ethiopians abroad and their colleagues in Ethiopia. There was no mention of our space science activities, no mention of the activities of P2P, there is no mention of the significant contributions by colleagues from Western Michigan State, NC A&T and Morgan State University. At the workshop were four shining stars, young Ethiopians (two from US, one from Sweden, one from Germany), with PhDs in Vet Medicine and Engineering. They have on going programs with AAU. I do believe these activities can be good examples on how to tap the talents of the new PhDs in the event they leave AAU and their country in large numbers.
AAU Aspires to be a Preeminent African Research University
The overall objective of the Strategic Plan of the University is to produce 5,000 PhD graduates in 10 years, and to establish some 14 Centers of Excellence in research and teaching in key prioritized areas. AAU has done its homework to address quality and it is taking actions to fully staff its programs to train these students. In order to assure quality it has devised faculty development via its Academic Development Resource Centers (ADRCs) in all higher education institutes. It plans to hire and to appoint highly qualified faculty members, visiting scholars and to participate in faculty exchanges via the established consortia. The heart and soul of the PhD programs are the international consortia with specific research and education missions. The main PhD programs include Health Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities, Science and Technology, Development Studies, Administration Sciences, Art and Design Studies, etc. The deans presented the proposed PhD programs from each unit. The presentations however leave a lot to be desired. For example because of the programs are fenced there appears to be no room for collaboration. There was no emphasis on how a given research taps to the talent pool from various disciplines. There is no such thing as “Mathematical Biology”, Waste management, Nanotechnology, Environmental Science and Global Change, Women Studies, Religion Studies, etc. Everything that was described has the form of highly focused traditional intellectual grouping. It is very sad to see the isolation of science and technology from social sciences and vice versa. There is absolutely no program to bring the two together. There appears to be no attempt to help the ST and Social Sciences to conduct collaborative research on indigenous science and technology, mathematics and astronomy. In the same way as there is an ethno botany research Ethiopia provides the most fertile environment and data on archeoscience, archeomathematics, archeotechnology and archeoastronomy. These are the most dynamic fields emerging out of the archeology and anthropology disciplines. While there a genuine move to develop PhD programs the programs will suffer from lack of good organization and focus. One example is the Institute for Gender Studies. If this institute deals with women as a discipline in Social Science, it should be called Institute for Women Studies. Perhaps creating a department of religion and women studies would go a long way to conduct scientific studies on the disciplines of women and religion.
The PhD Prisons and the military camp
In one of the reports the college of education presented a 14-point criticism of the PhD program. Obviously there is a huge rift between the faculty and the university. This rift has boiled over during the meeting to the point that the dean of the college was asked to apologize by the dean of the graduate school, who was turned down, and he had to apologize on behalf of the university. It is true that such criticisms don’t belong to the meeting. They are so pointed, and one of them described the new arrangement as “PhD prisons. It is really a low blow but I came to realize the militaristic approach to secure the university. I had an appointment with several people at the ILS and the university administrator. I showed my ID and I was fine to go through as long as I leave my ID with the security guard. I refused and they refused to let me in. I traveled over 20000 miles and I expected some reasonable treatment but I think I have forgotten how things work here. I tried to call my colleagues, but I run out of time for the telephone, which I can charge only if I know my telephone number. Life is a little BS here. In any event I am coming back home in about 48 hours. Knowing that gave me a sense of relief, I don’t live and work here anyways.
The workshop was held in a complex that can be described as a military barrack. Each unit is a two-story town house, and it has a well-equipped kitchen, a living room, one bathroom and two bedrooms. I was told that the complex was built as a training center. A young professor from Germany and I shared B43, Room 7. The bedrooms have adequate storage space, and the bed is short, and the pillows are very stiff they can break your necks. The shower has no curtain; the water pressure is very law. The faucets don’t work properly, and they are loose. When we went in the leaving room smelled like sewer. We did not know about the problem until the morning, when the kitchen flooded. The pluming connecting the drain from shower to the main line was broken. It looks like there is no redundancy in the design of the entire complex. I am just left to wonder about the safety of the booking high-rise buildings in the city. Just imagine a major earthquake and the number of people who can perish. These people are most likely the rich and the well funded. They are most likely the most educated and affluent component of society. Loosing them in a major earthquake would mean Addis Ababa will be left with the poor and the less educated.
The Humboldtians and the Diaspora: Social Engineering 101
The meeting was composed of people with more or less the same experiences in higher education. They range from graduate assistants to full professors. However they have subtle differences. For their higher education experiences, some went to Europe, some went North America, some went to former Soviet Union, and some are home grown. There is still that tension how and where the PhD is obtained. The perception can be that those from North America may feel superior because the data show that many young people wish to get their PhDs from North America. While similar programs don’t exist for Europe, for now we can say that the DV program could be a good indicator for the appeal of the North American continent. Within Europe, Oxford, Cambridge, Sorbonne, and Max Plank institute are the most sought after. That means those who graduated from such schools are looked at as the potential great minds. There are also other classifications based on who supported the graduate education of the person. For example there are social clubs such as Humboldtians, Rohdianss, Pacardians, Ciscoians, etc. These are special classes of people who are hand picked by the board of directors of these clubs to be trained to lead vital firms in developing countries. The motivations to provide such opportunities to individuals may include enhancing the sphere of influence of the clubs, promoting development, developing a class of people who are willing to promote European values and hence enhance cultural understanding. These people are groomed to lead major firms, become leaders of higher education, elected officials and even presidents of their countries. At the workshop two groups were identified: The first group is of the Humboldtians. The second group that does not belong to these communities, at least it has not identified itself as belonging to any social club. In one occasion the” perceived” members of this group were asked to stand. I counted at least 25 people. This set of people came from Europe, USA and Canada. These are highly trained individuals all PhDs in fields of education, physics, chemistry, economics, geology, space science, mathematics, engineering, hydrology, agriculture, veterinary and medicine. To the most part these individuals got where they are on their own efforts. In general the Ethiopians living abroad moved out of the county for personal reasons. They are ambitious and most are doing very well financially and career wise. They are increasingly becoming focal points for organizing the Ethiopian scientific, educational and cultural communities. They are also becoming advocates of quality of life, liberty and happiness, as well as access to quality higher education for all Ethiopians regardless of where they live. They are establishing the mythological Ethiopia where it is said Ethiopia is Where Ethiopians are. The level of advocacy for quality of life, liberty and happiness has never been seen in the history of Ethiopia. Because of their success and their political influence Ethiopians living abroad are seen as challenges to the current state of affairs in Ethiopia. This can be judged by the amount of opposition in the US, and the recent resolutions by the US congress.
Does the so-called “Ethiopian Diaspora” qualify to be identified as a social group? A social group consists of individuals with something that binds them. This can be geographical location, ethnicity, religion and political views. In my view this definition does not apply to the group. Unfortunately there is a dangerous push to lump Ethiopians living abroad as Diaspora. The definition of the word Diaspora applies only to individuals with no countries. They live in permanent refugee status. Ethiopians living abroad may experience such status, however improvements in immigration laws allowed may Ethiopians to become citizens of their host county. I do believe adoption of a new citizenship will continue. Under such circumstances I don’t see the existence of the so-called Diaspora.
Why is then the push to categorize Ethiopians living abroad as Diaspora? This brings me to what I call social engineering 101. In Social Engineering, economists and social scientists categorize people based on religion, economic class, political views, and ethnicity. In the US the general classifications are Majority (Whites) and Minority (Black and Hispanics). In Ethiopia the general classifications are ethnic based. While every great book says that man is created in the image of God, and we are all created equal, social engineering allows one group to be superior to the other. Social engineering allows one focus on subtle and irrelevant differences among people allowing them to create groups that dominate other groups. Social engineering allows government to create new enemies, so that the people they are ruling will focus on the new enemies. The new enemy of Ethiopia is the so-called Diaspora, What are they the new enemy?
1. They are very rich and are becoming highly influential in the politics of the country they live in
2. They are absolutely free and they can access any information at any time that is inaccessible to their people in Ethiopia, and instigate trouble to the government by informing their people
3. They are forming the country of Ethiopia outside, and the government has no control of them, making Ethiopia increasingly borderless
4. They are joining armies of their host county, and at all levels teaching their communities about Ethiopia and what it means to be Ethiopian.
The Ethiopian governments are no more ruling Ethiopia when there is a separate country run by the “Diaspora”.
Mote to come.