Members of the LMEU Project participated in the 36th May Annual International Educational Conference in Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia on May 18-19, 2018 under the general theme of “Evidence-based teacher education in Ethiopia: implications for policy and practice”. In the event, five members of the Project presented three conference papers under the Higher Education Track and Parallel Session “Professional Training in Higher Education Leadership and Management. In the parallel session, the first paper under the title of “Building Institutional Capacity in Higher Education Leadership and Management: Critical Elements of Success and Identified Challenges, written by Professor Seppo Hölttä, Professor Jussi Kivistö and Professor Elias Pekkola, was presented by Professor Seppo Hölttä. The next paper, “Critical Success Factors in a Multi-institutional Partnership: A case of LMUU Project between Higher Education Institutions from Uganda and Finland was presented by Dr, Maria Kaguhangire of Uganda Management Institute. The Final paper, which focuses on “Cultivating the next generation of higher education leaders through professional training programmes: The role of international academic partnerships” was presented by Dr. Yohannes Mehari and Mr. Rediet Abebe. Each presentation was followed by 30 minutes discussions and several important questions were raised and answered by both the participants and presenters.The three papers generally focused on the three result areas of the project but specifically addressed the second result area (professional training) and third result area (African Network of Higher Education Researchers). The participation at the research conference was aimed at familiarising the Ethiopian higher education researchers with the broader research agenda on higher education leadership and management in Africa. The third result area, in its broad sense, involves the active participation of the LMEU project team in conferences and research engagements of African higher education researchers, and bringing together African researchers in the field of higher education. Such activities in the future are expected to support dialogue and development of common research agenda, and an activation a network.
Most of the issues discussed dealt with analysing the major challenges of higher education management and leadership in Africa and the need for broad capacity building efforts. The panel had a lively discussion and debate on the roles and effectiveness of professional training programmes as a useful instrument to enhance the capacity of current and future leaders and managers from within the community of academics. Another important point of discussion was the question of how to improve the integration between theoretical knowledge of higher education leadership and management and the skills set demanded for effective professional practice. The debate helped participants gain new insights about the capacity of professional training and study programmes at master’s and doctoral level in broadening the currently narrow knowledge-base of higher education leadership and management in Ethiopian higher education. The papers are written as part of the LMEU Project dissemination and aimed at reaching the main stakeholders and beneficiaries of the project. The event was attended by various lower, middle and higher level university leaders and academics. The president of Bahir Dar University, and deans leading Faculties of Education of several universities were in attendance. The presentations were moderated by Dr. Abebaw Adamu, Director of the Ethiopian Institute of Higher Education, Addis Ababa University. In total, 30 participants attended the round table discussion.
Activity 2- Meetings with project stakeholders
The other key activity carried out during the travel to Ethiopia was a series of meetings with project stakeholders. These meetings focused on providing information to our stakeholders on the professional training activities of the LMEU project and discussing the possibilities of working in collaboration and reducing duplication of efforts. The meeting sessions are briefly discussed below.
1) Meeting with the Vice President of Addis Ababa University and the Chair of the LMEU project board, 17 May 2018
The LEMU delegates from the University of Tampere briefed Dr. Jeilu Oumer, the vice president of Addis Ababa University about the progress of the project activities. The other issue that was discussed during the meeting was the progress of Addis Ababa University with getting the curriculum for the PhD programme in higher education leadership and management approved by its Senate. Dr. Jeilu assured that this process will be completed by mid-June. Some issues with the joint supervision of the doctoral students were raised, and a shared understanding was reached on the need to reinforce a continued institutional and personal commitment to provide all-rounded support to the doctoral students through all the courses of their doctoral studies. Dr. Jeilu reported that not so much has been going on regarding the establishment of the African network of higher education researchers, but stated his plans to discuss with Dr. Damtew Tefera about the role of Addis Ababa University and University of KwaZulu-Natal in the establishing the network. Five participants took part in the meeting.
2) Meeting with the President of Bahir Dar University, 19 May 2018 (10 participants)
The main purpose of this meeting was to update the Dr. Firew Tegegne, president of Bahir Dar University, our partner institution about the progress of the project activities. The team also discussed the progress with the approval of the curriculum for the PhD programme in higher education leadership and management. Dr. Firew informed the team that the university is already in the process of approving the curriculum and that it will be done in less than a month. Another issue that was discussed was how to develop the modules and implement the professional training programme. The president reassured the commitment of Bahir Dar University to provide all the necessary support for the successful achievement of the LEMU project objectives. The meeting also discussed the possibilities of increasing the intake capacity of the LMEU joint doctoral programme, for instance by looking for other funding opportunities, which would also enable continuing the LMEU project into the future. Dr. Firew was keen on having dialogue on the possibilities of extending the collaboration between Bahir Dar University and University of Tampere beyond the LMEU project. Exploring opportunities for additional funding was considered as an option to work towards a continuous collaboration. In the end, the president extended an invitation to Professor Seppo Hölttä to teach higher education management at Bahir Dar University as an invited expert, under the sponsorship of Bahir Dar University. Ten participants took part in the meeting, including representatives from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Ethiopian Institute of Higher Education (EIHE).
3) Meeting with the manager of higher education component at GIZ and the Higher Education Quality expert at Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA), 21 May 2018
The objective of this meeting was to share information on the activities of the LMEU project with GIZ and discuss the possibilities of pulling joint efforts in professional training. Discussing these issues became very important since GIZ has ongoing projects, implemented in collaboration with the Ethiopian Institute of Higher Education (EIHE) and Ethiopian Education Strategy Centre (ESC), on the areas of capacity building in higher education leadership and management. The meeting focused on exchanging information in relation to the focus of the professional training under development from both LMEU and GIZ and EIHE sides. The discussion concluded that there was no conflict of interests between the two projects, despite some overlapping focus areas and approaches of implementing the professional training. Evelien pointed that one area that the two projects could work together could be in the areas training of the local trainers for the professional training, since currently the training to the trainers is scheduled to be provided by invited experts from CHEPS and other European universities. She stated that GIZ needs Ethiopian experts who have completed PhD in higher education leadership and management in order to make the professional training sustainable, even after the funding period of the project had come to an end. Another issue that was discussed was the possibilities of the LMEU project supporting the training of quality assurance officers of the HERQA, possibly through the project’s professional training programmes, since one of the modules deals with the subject of quality assurance in higher education. Four participants took part in the meeting.
4) Meeting with the Acting Director General of Education Strategy Centre (ESC), 23 May 2018
The representatives of the LMEU project also met with Dr. Solomon Mogus, the acting director general of ESC. The discussion began with informing the progress of the LMEU project. The focus of the meeting was on the common interest of the LMEU and ESC in professional training activities in higher education leadership and management. Dr. Solomon indicated that the training materials produced by ESC and distributed to public universities in the country address the subjects of Strategic management, project cycle management, leadership skills, change management, research policy and management, human resources management, induction manual for academic managers, and induction manual for administrative managers. The discussion pointed to the fact that there might be some overlapping with the modules under preparation for professional training by LMEU project team, especially those that cover the areas of operations management and other practical aspects of institutional management. On balance, it also became apparent that the focus of professional training designed by the LMEU project team has originality and advantage in its emphasis on building a deeper understanding of the organisational dynamics of universities. The rationale behind doing so rests on the argument that professional training programmes would need to adequately acquaint current and future as well as lower, medium and high level academic leaders and managers with the basic understanding of the nature and idea of universities as academic organisations and familiarise themselves with the core issues underlying governance in higher education (e.g. management, leadership, decision making, accountability, communication, etc.). The significance of the LMEU professional training modules would be key in enabling higher education leaders acquire solid knowledge on how universities are different from other public and business organisations and why it would be wrong and inappropriate to employ similar management and leadership approaches in universities as in other organisations is already a significant step towards recognising the roots of some of the major problems facing HEIs in Ethiopia. The modules are also designed to cover the discussion of major organisational theories, both in the field of management and higher education, which would help consolidate the knowledge-base that is essential for leaders in HEIs to possess.