Higher Education Expansion and the Gender Question in Ethiopia: A Case Study of Women in a Public University


  • Tesfaye Semela Assistant Professor, Department of Rural Development


The need to be part of the globalized knowledge economy on the one hand and ensure social justice on the other necessitated the change from elitist to massified higher education system. Following this new development, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa such as Ethiopia embarked on ambitious expansion by increasing the national enrolment capacity and the number of universities. This study assesses the effects of government policies in terms of mainstreaming gender issues in higher education based on a case study at Debub University. Data were collected from two sources. One is the primary data obtained based on an open ended interview with 20 female students admitted on affirmative action program. The second is the university registrar office. The results show that of the total of 27,209 enrolled between 2000/01 and 2004/05 academic years at undergraduate degree programs, only 19.2% were women. Similarly, the average proportion of women graduates over the same period was 11.7%. Women attrition (due to academic reasons) was found to be about 35.1% in the 2003/04 academic year. The qualitative results indicated that women equity is affected by factors related to socio-psychological, academic and guidance and counseling support, health and financial problems. Implications of the findings to policy and practical implementation at lower level in higher education institutions are discussed.