According to an official government document issued in March 2008 titled, “Annual Intake and Enrolment Growths and Professional and Program Mix of Ethiopian Public Higher Education: Strategy and Conversion Plan, 2001-2005”, the Ethiopian government decided to introduce what is now known as a ‘70:30 percent professional mix’. This indicates that the enrolment of new students into the public universities will be on the basis of placement of 40 percent into the Engineering and Technology stream, 30 percent into the Science streams (of which 20% is for Natural and Computational Sciences, 5% Pharmacy and Health Sciences, 5% Agricultural and Life Sciences), and 30 percent into the Social Sciences and Humanities streams.).
To meet the rapid expansion of higher education, the Ministry of Education plans to train 10,000 undergraduate instructors at the Master’s level and 2000 MA/MSc holders at the PhD level. The training of these instructors is aligned with the proportion allocated to the streams. The professional mix targeted proportion (70:30) is expected to be attained at the preparatory schools by 2003 E.C. The process of implementation of the plan has already started and is expected to reach it peak by 2005 E.C., the final year of the plan by which time the government plans to increase the number of public universities to 33.
The government’s rationale for introducing this professional mix is the belief that Science and Technology are the engines of development. Hence Ethiopia’s future for building a knowledge economy and propelling its economic growth hinges on the availability of a sufficient stock of skilled workforce specializing in those fields, and produced by its higher education institutions. This government goal seems to assume that the quality of higher education in the field of Science and Technology would keep pace on a par with the explosion in enrollment in these fields. This is critical if the graduates have to acquire the essential professional expertise to contribute to the national development.
However, the reality in the sector not only in Ethiopia, but also in Sub-Saharan Africa, does not seem to support such assumptions. A recent World Bank (2008, 30) study on the state of higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa points out the dangers of expanding higher education without regard to quality and advises the countries to slow down the pace of expansion to get some space for addressing quality issues. The study specifically argues.