International Higher Education Partnerships in Ethiopia: A Comparative Study of two Partnership Programs

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Addis Ababa University


This study explores the intention underlying the North-South higher education partnerships and how these partnerships have been formed and functioning. The study focused on the experiences of local stakeholders of the partnerships between universities in Ethiopia and Norway. Two cases (Language and Health partnership programs) were selected and examined to compare the two cases to find out the major rationales, map out the partnership development process, and examine the positioning of partners. Concepts drawn from ‘internationalization rationale’ and ‘mutuality lens’ were used as theoretical guides the study. The study employed a qualitative comparative case study design and used interviews and document analysis as methods for data collection. Staff and students were selected as participants, using purposeful and snowball sampling techniques. The study showed that in Ethiopia, there is a loosely-defined policy space that underlies international higher education partnerships, at both national and institutional levels. The study indicated that although the two case universities of Ethiopia have followed an open approach to respond to various partnership possibilities, they have often accepted partnerships with the Northern partners. In both cases, factors related to academic growth and development, resource dilemmas and opportunities, societal development, and gender equity were found to be the major rationales driving the local partners to establish international partnerships. Of these, the interest for academic growth and development was recognized as the most dominant rationale. The study also mapped out important themes related to partnership development, starting from initiation, through to building and from operation to monitoring and evaluation. The study also indicated that at various stages of the partnership development, the two cases have manifested aspects of mutuality in terms of equity, participation, autonomy, and solidarity as well as aspects that counter to mutuality. The study also showed that comparatively, the Health partnership exhibited more asymmetrical patterns of relation, in favor of the foreign partner. Comparison of the two cases also revealed that the partnership development has been shaped not only by structural obstacles, manifested as inequalities in academic and research capacity, resource scarcities in the local partner, and the criteria and interest of funding bodies, but also by other contextual factors embedded in a particular partnership program, including pathways, modalities, activities, and individuals involved. This, generally, suggests the need for more thoughtful discussions between partners on both structural and contextual variables as ways towards balancing the positioning of partners.



International Higher Education Partnerships in Ethiopia