The Institutionalization of the University Third Mission: A Comparative Study between Addis Ababa and Jimma Universities, Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


Besides the traditional missions of research and teaching, ‘the University Third Mission’ (UTM) has recently become a major policy concern for universities. As a result, universities are increasingly engaged in a broad range of UTM activities and expected to act as a key contributor to the economic and social wellbeing of their countries and regions. However, there are suggestions from recent national and international research that UTM is not given equal value as teaching and research, which are prioritized, with UTM coming in a distant third, almost as an afterthought. Universities are being criticized for this and their lack and improper use of UTM budgets, for the unfavorable attitude of faculty members towards UTM, and for unfavorable conditions of work and poor logistics for faculty to work on the activities of UTM. The assumption behind the present dissertation is that these problems relate to a lack of proper institutionalization of the UTM and the aim of the research is therefore to assess this process of institutionalization. A comparative investigation in two Ethiopian public universities was conducted. The first is the Ethiopian flagship university (Addis Ababa University) and the second is also among the first generation higher education institutions of the country (Jimma University). Two basic questions were posed: (1) How is UTM described in the national policies context? (2) How is UTM institutionalization at Addis Ababa University (AAU) and Jimma University (JU)? The second question has 5 interrelated specific questions: (i) How supportive is the institutional orientation of AAU and JU towards UTM? (ii) How supportive is the institutional support of AAU and JU towards UTM? (iii) How do the community partners view their involvement in UTM? (iv)What is the current status of teachers’ involvement in UTM? (v) What similarities and differences are there in institutionalizing UTM at the two universities?To answer these questions, a mixed research methodology that applies an exploratory sequential method was employed to guide the research process. Institutional theory has been used as a lens to guide this study. Data were mainly collected using semi-structured interviews, document reviews, and questionnaires. An official from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, officials from the two universities, community partners, and teachers from both universities were participants of this study. The Policy and strategic documents at the national and universities’ levels were also reviewed. While purposive sampling was used to identify the participants of the interview and documents for review, proportionate stratified sampling was used to identify teachers from both universities. The analysis of the study is mainly guided by the study’s analytical framework. While the qualitative data were narrated under the analytical framework of the study, a single sample t-test was used to analyze the quantitative data. After the analysis, the quantitative data were made fit into the analytical framework and discussed together with the qualitative data. Based on the analysis and discussions, it was found that though the national policies recognize the importance of UTM, lack of emphasis for the mission and profound problems on conceptualizing the mission were found. When it comes to the universities, even though they integrated UTM in their mission statement, there are inconsistencies and discrepancies in defining the mission. While both the universities have developed some important policy documents, they fail to create a common understanding on what should be counted as UTM at their universities. Both universities were found to have activities categorized under the three core dimensions of UTM, however, these universities could not put clear distinctions among these dimensions. The leadership and support of the universities were found to lack devotion to: creating a strong partnership with the external community, building common understanding and value on the stakeholders regarding UTM, assigning proper budget, and so on. The community partners’ involvement in UTM was also found to be limited. The xiii communication between the university and the community is more of a one-way (university dominated) communication. Teachers in both universities were also found to have low participation in the activities of UTM in general and technology transfer in particular. Generally, even though there are minor differences in the process of institutionalizing UTM in Addis Ababa and Jimma Universities, the process is immature in both universities. Hence, suggestions are forwarded to further institutionalize UTM in these universities. Among the suggestions is creating a common vocabulary for UTM. It is suggested in this research that starting from the national level to the levels of the universities, clarity, and consistency in conceptualizing the UTM should be given priority. This should also be followed by creating a common understanding and value for all stakeholders. Key words: the University Third Mission, Institutionalization, Institutional Support, Institutional orientation,



The University Third Mission,, Institutionalization,, Institutional Support,, Institutional orientation