Authors: Wossenu Yimam
In a world transformed by major technological breakthroughs, the information revolution and the advent of the knowledge society, higher education is called upon to play an increasingly vital role. Its mandates have been diversified. Accordingly, it must simultaneously train young people for jobs demanding higher and more diverse skills, offer courses which are up to international standards, while instilling knowledge which is adapted to the local context; and it must contribute to resolving social problems like poverty, HIV/AIDS, threats to the environment, and violence. In times of uncertainty, higher education institutions are also expected to foresee future needs and know how to adjust to change. To effectively fulfill their missions, higher education institutions need to be independent, and this necessitates accountability and transparency in their management. In fact, numerous stakeholders (the government, employers, business community, parents, teachers, and students) are interested in obtaining information about how higher education institutions operate. How to evaluate and accredit higher education systems, therefore, has become a crucial concern at the present time. The task of evaluating and accrediting higher education systems and institutions, however, is not a simple matter. First of all, it should be defined in terms of needs for accountability. Who needs to know what, in order to make what decisions? The locus of decision-making also provides another perspective on the issue. Explaining how higher education systems and institutions can be evaluated and accredited implies considering them as important vehicles for implementing government policies, satisfying social expectations, and carrying through their own long-term strategy with the means at hand. In light of this view and based on the practice currently employed in some developing countries, this paper attempts to provide a clear overview of what is needed for national and institutional evaluation and accreditation capabilities and how to go about constructing and maintaining them. In particular, it tries to identify the problems observed in the practice of evaluating and accrediting Ethiopian higher education institutions (both private and public) and proposes ways of tackling these problems with a broad purpose of enabling the institutions meet social expectations.