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Governance and governmentality : the influence of the Bologna Process on Ethiopian higher education

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posted on 2023-05-28, 12:36 authored by Geberew Mekonnen
The purpose of this study was to investigate the Ethiopian public universities' governance systems in the context of the Bologna Process. It specifically aimed at understanding and interpreting the perceptions and strategic responses of leaders, instructors, and students of public universities towards their governance systems. In the past few years, there has been a prevailing chorus of complaints among academic leaders, instructors, and students about university governance. The Ethiopian government acknowledged the stakeholders' dissatisfaction with governance and placed it as one of the priorities in the Growth Transformational Plan-II of 2016-2020. This dissatisfaction and the introduction of newly adopted elements of the Bologna Process brought enormous pressures to the governance of public universities. In addition, little is known about the Ethiopian higher education institutions' governance in the context of the Bologna Process. This limited information on higher education governance in the Ethiopian context and the dissatisfaction of university key actors about the university governance systems provided the impetus for this study. Taking these gaps into consideration, this study was designed to address the following research questions: - How do key actors in Basic Academic Units (BAUs) of Ethiopian public universities perceive and practice governance in the context of the Bologna Process? - How are students' voices reflected and perceived in the governance of Ethiopian public universities? - What response strategies do BAUs in Ethiopian public universities use to respond to university governance systems? - What impact has the Bologna Process had on the Ethiopian higher education system? - What are the challenges and opportunities pertinent to public university governance as a consequence of the Bologna Process; and - What are the implications of this study for higher education governance and governmentality in Ethiopia and elsewhere? The concept of governance and governmentality was utilised as a conceptual framework to understand the governance systems. The study employed mixed methods research design. A total of 42 college deans, 68 department chairs, 209 instructors, and 697 students from the three generations (established from 1950-2004, 2005-2010, and 2011-2016) sample public universities were selected using random and census sampling techniques coupled with purposive sampling. Both quantitative and qualitative data were generated from university staff and students using questionnaires and interviews. In order to address the research questions, quantitative data were analysed using descriptive statistics (mean, standard deviation, frequency, and percentage) and inferential statistics (ANOVA and Tukey's multiple comparison test) whilst the qualitative data were thematically analysed. The following findings were found. First, autonomy, accountability, transparency, and participation were conceived as a critical concern of most of the research participants. As a result, discontinuity between the legal documents and the actual practice has been identified. Second, the findings on the role of student voice contrast with identified practices in the Bologna implementing countries (Bergan, 2003; Dundar, 2013). In the Ethiopian higher education context, students had more voice than instructors, and they were more empowered and listened to by the university senior management than instructors in some of the aspects of the decision-making process. Third, based on Oliver's (1991) framework of strategic responses to institutional pressure, instructors and leaders used defiance, manipulation, and avoidance as strategic responses to governance pressure, and compromise and acquiescence as a means of a confirmatory strategic response to existing governance pressures. In contrast, students' response strategies tended to be more positive as they predominantly used acquiescence and compromise strategies in responding to the university system. Fourth, the Bologna Process has had impact on both structural and governance aspects of the Ethiopian higher education. Governance challenges such as policy decontextualisation, politicised and centralised systems, inadequate leadership skills, lack of transparency, and nepotism and paternalism emerged during Ethiopia's implementation of the Bologna Process. From the structural perspective, competency-based education, harmonisation and modularisation of academic programs, and credit transfer systems were some of the changes made to Ethiopian higher education. Consequently, flexible learning paths for students, student mobility between universities, teamwork, and continuous learning assessment emerged as positive impacts of the Bologna Process. Finally, this study suggests the need to build trust, and shared and consultative governance that accommodates the interests of the university system participants including instructors, students, lower and middle-level leaders, university senior management, and the government at a higher level.


Publication status

  • Unpublished

Rights statement

Copyright 2020 the author Chapter 2 appears to be the equivalent of a pre-print version of an article published as: Tulu, G., Corbett, M., Kilpatrick, S., 2018. Academic Senate decision and deliberation communication in the context of the Bologna Process: the case of Ethiopian public universities, Education and society, 36(2), 77-102

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  • Open

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