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 AAU's 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 ÒsandwichÓ 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. 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. 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: Develop consortia for each academic track (Health Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities, Science and Technology, Development Studies, Administration Sciences, Art and Design Studies, etc; Discuss collectively among members of consortia the identification of common research areas;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);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. 


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 Affairs