Ridley, Barbara (2009). "Opportunity or impoverishment? Expansion in Ethiopian higher education" Paper presented at the 6th annual conference of the HDCA, 10-12 September 2009, Lima, Peru.
In 2003, only 1% of the population was enrolled in higher education in Ethiopia. With the higher education sector review came an agenda for change linked to the reduction of poverty: new universities were planned, colleges merged and up-graded, private sector institutions flourished and enrolment increased. But the speed of these developments has left the HE sector in disarray with few material resources, a lack of academic and management expertise to implement government policy and poor quality assurance mechanisms. Put together, these undermine the very concept of a meaningful university education. Poverty alleviation might be the rhetoric, but impoverishment of university provision remains the reality. From a capability perspective, increased tertiary provision should enable more individuals to realise their valued functionings, but as Sen asserts, those institutions ‘not only…contribute to our freedoms, their roles can be sensibly evaluated in the light of their contributions to our freedoms’ (1999, p. 142). At the macro level, disagreements between government and donor agendas and between national and federal responsibilities have impacted on institutional roles. In addition, at a more local level, differences between academics and their superiors, and the rights students have to make choices (whether academic or situational) have all contributed towards, or detracted from, freedoms. This paper looks at the tensions within the expansion programme, the opportunities it could enable, but within a context of distrust and dissent.