Tampere University’s long-standing collaboration with universities in Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Africa serves a compelling example of the transformative potential of international cooperation and educational development. This remarkably journey commenced in 2017 as part of the HEI-ICI project, ”Building Institutional Capacity in Leadership and Management of Ethiopian Universities (LMEU),” which was funded by the Foreign Ministry of Finland and operated from March 2017 to April 2021. Thanks to the generous support of the Finnish Development Cooperation Funds, HEI-ICI established a robust platform for enhancing institutional capacity development and fostering knowledge exchange. Beyond the initial HEI-ICI funding period, Tampere University has continued its support for Ph.D. students, thanks to the Global Innovation Network for Teaching and Learning (GINTL). This collaborative network comprises 20 Finnish universities and universities of applied sciences, supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland. It’s an example of sustained commitment to educational development in global south.
The project united three Ethiopian universities, namely Addis Ababa University, Bahir Dar University, and Mekelle University, along with two Ugandan universities, Makerere University and Uganda Management Institute, as well as South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal. This collaborative effort represented a promising endeavour with the goal of enhancing the leadership and management capacities of Ethiopian Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), enabling them to play an active and impactful role in advancing national socio-economic development.
One of the highlights of this collaboration is the establishment of a joint Ph.D. program focusing on higher education leadership and management (HELM) at both Bahir Dar University and Mekelle University. Leading to the evolution of this joint Ph.D program into an independent academic offering by the Institute of Pedagogical Sciences at Mekelle University. This transformation underscores the programme’s pertinence to Ethiopia’s higher education system and exemplifies Mekelle University’s unwavering commitment to sustainable collaboration and impact. At present, Mekelle University’s doctoral programme in HELM is proud to host eight doctoral students from the region, each embarking on their academic journey. Tampere university has been able to continue its academic support and share its networks with GINTL-funding.
The other major outcome of the project has been the efforts to strengthen the professional training in HELM within partner universities in Ethiopia. The collaboration also led to the development of professional development training modules for leadership and management programs at both Bahir Dar University and Mekelle University. These modules were specifically crafted to enhance the leadership and management competencies of existing university leaders and academics. In the inaugural training session at Mekelle University, 41 university leaders from various levels successfully completed the certification process. Similarly, Bahir Dar University reported the successful completion of the first-round professional training for 54 higher education leaders.
The continuation of the support is essential since, the journey has not been without its challenges. The global pandemic outbreak in 2019 and the subsequent unfortunate war in Ethiopia, which was followed by a complete siege and blockade in the Tigray region, forced the suspension of the joint doctoral programme and the professional training for the past three years. Despite these hardships, Mekelle University demonstrated resilience and continued to institutionalise the goals of the LMEU project after the war had ended. Consequently, upon Mekelle University’s official request for potential collaboration, and with the unwavering support of GINTL funding and the dedication of Tampere University’s Higher Education Group (HEG) staff, this partnership has now embarked on a new phase of engagement.
As we peer into the future, Tampere University remains steadfast in its commitment to further supporting professional training and Ph.D. education in collaboration with Mekelle University. This commitment encompasses the sharing academic resources, networks, and the planning of forthcoming initiatives, fostering a robust partnership between Ethiopian and Finnish universities in the domains of innovation, higher education research, teaching, and learning. In the upcoming 2023–2024, Tampere University’s Administrative Sciences Unit and Higher Education Group professors will actively engage in the supervision of Ph.D. students as co-supervisors, working alongside the primary supervisors from Mekelle University. This involvement will extend to doctoral seminars, educational contributions, and providing access to wealth of scholarly online materials.
This collaboration not only underscores the enduring strength of our partnership but also serves as a testament to the profound influence of international initiatives such as HEI-ICI and GINTL. The unwavering dedication of all stakeholders, including the funding agencies, remains instrumental in propelling Ethiopian universities toward sustained growth and their contribution to both national and global development. We look forward to the journey ahead and the continued transformation of higher education in Ethiopia and its broader impact.
Mulugeta Tsegai, Haftu Hindeya, Genet Gelana Kabeta, Elias Pekkola, Jussi Kivistö, Yohannes Mehari