Sunday, June 16, 2024

Government to exert control over autonomous universities

By Eyasu Zekarias, Photo by Anteneh Aklilu


In a significant policy shift, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education (MoE) has announced that autonomous universities in the country will now be subject to increased government control, despite previous promises of independence.

According to the Education Minister, while autonomous universities were granted the ability to manage their own governance systems under their own rules and regulations, this autonomy will now be limited in the name of “accountability.”

“The fact that autonomous universities have their own guidelines does not mean that they operate without law,” the Minister stated. “The system will be closed to ensure accountability is maintained.”

Dr. Solomon Abraha, the Chief Executive Officer of Administration and Infrastructure at the MoE, elaborated that autonomous universities would still be required to demonstrate their financial capacity and audit findings from the past 2 years in order to maintain their independent status.

“Autonomous universities have the financial capacity and audit findings of the last 2 years to achieve independence when they come to the system, but they are equally accountable,” Dr. Solomon explained.

The government’s move to exert greater control over autonomous universities comes despite the global trend of the world’s most competitive institutions being granted greater independence. The Minister acknowledged this, stating that “Most of the world’s most competitive institutions are autonomous. Their autonomy is not outside the rules and procedures.”

The shift toward tighter government oversight was announced at a two-day conference in Addis Ababa, organized by the MoE with $316,000 in funding from the U.S. Embassy, aimed at guiding the transformation of public universities into autonomous entities.

While details remain limited, it is likely that only a select number of universities with strong audit performances in recent years will be approved for autonomous status under the new framework. Addis Ababa University was the first to receive this designation in July 2023.

The government’s decision to pull back on the promised autonomy of Ethiopia’s universities has raised concerns among education experts about the future independence and competitiveness of the country’s higher education system.

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