Monitoring Visit in Wolaita Sodo University (Oct 7-16, 2019)

Report progress on work package 3 (WP3) the WSU team currently visiting UCD:

By way of background, the BRTE WP3 is associated with enhancing education programmes in WSU by academic staff engaging directly with UCD counterparts to audit modules and share educational materials. In Sept 2018, 17 academic staff visited UCD for a three-month period. Six of these staff were requested by their authorities to develop curricula based on learning from UCD, a further 8 were requested to develop modules across a range of disciplines and 3 engaged on cross-cutting issues of gender equality, disability services, and inter-disciplinary education provision. These staff returned to their home university, WSU, in December 2018 and commenced applying their rich learning in Jan 2019.  In May 2019, the BRTE team undertook a monitoring mission in WSU to assess the impact of this learning on WSU. 

Prof Takele, WSU President (left), and Assoc Prof Pat, BRTE PI

In brief, it was found that, while the learning was hugely valued and significantly enhanced the academic educational competencies of the 17 participants, the value to WSU was limited due to no coherent policy on modularisation that is equally understood and applied across the university. Both UCD and WSU are similar in their commitment to modularisation and respect the responsibility of all departments/ schools to design and manage modules within their respective universities. However, WSU appears to lack the required university modular superstructure that ensures that all departments and schools have a common understanding of the policies, standards, and guidelines that need to apply across the University to enable modularisation to function to best effect. The resultant is a lack of consistency in how returned scholars applied their learning in WSU.

In September 2019, 13 further scholars visited UCD and this time their mandate is to engage with peers at UCD to develop modularisation for 7 programmes at the postgraduate level in WSU. Each arrived with a list of modules to pursue and learning to achieve.  When in UCD the group was encouraged to first reflect on a collective goal, namely to consider the need to first consider that all 13 have a common understanding of their University’s policies, standards and guidelines for modularisation to promote consistency in how they develop their learning. They were also asked to consider what the infrastructural framework should look like in WSU to support the development and management of modules at department, college and university levels – in advance of developing modules; again to encourage consistency and coherence in their work.  Lastly, they were asked to locate their work over the next 4 months of their stay within a bigger strategy to develop a comprehensive postgraduate modular system for all programmes at WSU.

The visiting scholars have been working as a team with UCD staff for the past two weeks. These WSU colleagues, while in agreement with the need for greater consistency in how modules are developed, delivered, and managed across WSU, insisted that WSU management endorse this changed work programme. The visiting UCD delegation brought a revised workplan, developed by the 13 visiting scholars, to the attention of the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the President of WSU (appendix 1 – proposed work plan). They agreed to formally endorse this changed direction and requested that the visiting scholars also avail of the chance to audit modules and/ or share module materials with relevant UCD counterparts. A letter is being prepared for signature by WSU President to agree to the revised workplan (appendix 2).

Assoc Prof Pat, BRTE PI (left), and Dr Wondimu Wolde, WSU Vice president for Academic

In discussing future scholar visits to UCD in WP 3, the delegation request that we take a bold move consistent with those taken by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dr Abiy, to address the gender equality issue in the BRTE.  The delegation request that the next batch of WSU scholars visiting UCD would be 50% female.  The President of WSU very much welcome this initiative by indicating it is indeed Ethiopian Government policy and University’s aspiration. Some colleagues cautioned the initiative on the basis of unequal capacities among the sexes, however, the UCD delegates agreed to offer additional support to meet any capacity deficits, if there would be any.

The delegation together with the PhDs students identified the following issues as real or potential factors that could limit their studies:

  • The smooth running of the financial system to support their research;
  • The acquiring and management of vehicles for BRTE research;
  • Completing ethical clearance at both UCD and WSU;
  • Finalising the university inter-institutional agreement;
  • Agreeing the timing of the stage 2 transfer among all PhDs; and
  • Agreeing the criteria for stage 2 transfer.

The financial system for PhD research was agreed by BRTE partners in May 2019 and implemented in August 2019. To date four of the PhD students have accessed funds from their respective accounts. They all reported that the system is working well. Issues remain with those studies requiring equipment to be sourced from abroad – the UCD delegates vowed to do everything possible to accelerate this process, which is equally slow in both UCD and WSU.

The vehicles are sourced and the final paperwork was processed at the Ministry and with the suppliers on Oct 14th – during this visit. The delegation requested that WSU make appropriate arrangements to ensure the safety of these vehicles during the course of the programme but especially in the coming months when some unrest is anticipated in light of the regional issues in the SNNRP. It was advised that they consider holding onto the vehicles in Addis until December 2018 until after the Sidama issue has been resolved.

13 PhD students with their supervisors and BRTE team

The Inter-Institutional Agreements are posing to be a problem.  Despite WSU indicating on two previous visits that this would not be an issue, WSU Senate refused the introduction of PhDs in philosophy (which is part of the inter-institutional agreement).  It advised that the University establish a series of curriculum-based PhDs in line with the disciplines covered by the BRTE programme. All of this fly in the face of WSU’s move away from curriculum-based education at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.  The UCD delegate assured the WSU President that UCD is ready to share learning, modules, and materials towards our mutual benefit, however, we would not be in a position to develop joint curriculum-based PhDs.  Following a series of meetings and upon reflection of the process employed in bringing the issue to the WSU Senate, the WSU President reiterated his commitment to any process that was in the interest of academia in Ethiopia and WSU in particular. He advised that we return to this issue by establishing a high-powered delegation at WSU to undertake a rapid assessment of other Ethiopian institution delivering PhDs in philosophy and to ascertain the exact policy of the Ethiopian Ministry on this issue. He insisted that, simultaneously, Dr Fanuel and his team in UCD – should document the rationale for a PhD in philosophy in WSU and share it with the WSU UMT as soon as possible.  These studies will then be considered by the University Management Team before considering putting it to the Senate once more in a professional manner.

Ten out of the 13 students have completed their ethical clearance and are in the process of data collection. The remaining three Twelde, Yibrah and Negusse are at the final stages and there are no major issues outstanding. It is envisaged that all will have completed the ethics clearance process by Oct 2019.

13 PhD students and BRTE team

On the issue of criteria for the stage 2 transfer, the students were requested to refer to the process agreed earlier at UCD and the process outline in their respective inter-institutional agreements. In clarifying these issues, the group agreed to the following criteria:

  • Ethical clearance fully completed;
  • Inter-institutional agreements signed by both universities;
  • Satisfactory progress agreed by all parties to the Doctoral Study Panel – both UCD and WSU supervisors; and
  • Clear plan of work established and agreed by the DSP for the 2020 calendar year in line with the students Development Plan.
Assoc Prof Pat (L-R), Dr Tekle, Dr Berhanu, and Temesgen (PhD student)

Prepare for the proposed Jan 2020 visit of UCD supervisors to WSU

The delegation sought clarification on the timing for the UCD supervisors visit in light of the potential and envisaged unrest arising from the SNNP Regional issues; the Sidama referendum in November, the discussions/ requests by other zones, including Wolaita, for regional status, and the fate of Hawasa town (currently the seat of SNNP region). The UCD delegation offered the option of remaining with the planned January 2020 timeframe or else to consider a March 2020 visit – during UCD’s reading week. All stakeholders suggested we stick to the Jan 2020 plan. In addition, they warned against further delays as the National elections will be held in June 2020.

Meeting with Ireland Embassy in Addis Ababa

The full series of meetings broached this issue and the UCD delegation used the opportunity of this visit to agree a framework for the visit with all stakeholders: the University Management Team; the PhD candidates; senior staff of WSU; the Irish Embassy in Addis; Concern Worldwide Ethiopia; and Minister Urkato.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.