Ethiopian faculty struggle with harsher workloads

February 5, 2009

Concerns about heavier workloads and the "managerialist" culture of universities are not the exclusive preserve of the UK - they are also being voiced in Ethiopia.

The worries are set out in a paper published in the journal Higher Education Quarterly, which analyses the consequences of the expansion of Ethiopia's university sector.

In the country, which has a population of 80 million, education is underdeveloped. Primary schooling is not available to all, and access to tertiary education is worse than in any other sub-Saharan nation.

However, the past 15 years have seen the "massification" of higher education, with access to universities growing four- to fivefold. By 2007, enrolments had risen to almost 200,000, according to the paper by Kedir Tessema, an academic at Addis Ababa University.

Ethiopia has 21 universities, many of which were started from scratch two to three years ago. But the report highlights an "acute" shortage of qualified staff, with the proportion of lecturers holding a PhD falling from 28 per cent to 9 per cent in just six years.

The study suggests that academics are bogged down by the number of tasks they have to do and struggle with class sizes, which on average have grown from 35 students in 2000 to more than 100 today.

One academic interviewed said: "Too much teaching, plus administrative assignments, plus my own research ... is damaging my social and family life."

The paper says: "Massification has resulted in increasing workloads and extended work schedules for academics. A managerialist attitude has evolved that measures teaching against instrumental outcomes. There is a sense of deprofessionalisation and deskilling among staff."

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