U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the Internationalization Conference
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
March 5, 2018
(As prepared for delivery)
I’m happy and honored to be here at the start of this conversation about the future of higher education in Ethiopia.
I confess that when I first heard about this conference, the concept of internationalization was new to me.
But as I learned more about it, I found that it brings together some of the same concepts that have underpinned the United States’ educational exchange programs for decades.
Long-standing U.S.-sponsored opportunities like the Fulbright Scholars Program, the Humphrey Program, and the International Visiting Leaders Program, which have been supplemented more recently by the Mandela Washington Fellowship and the Ambassador’s Distinguished Scholars program, are designed to broaden academic experiences, to exchange knowledge and best practices, and to facilitate mutual understanding between people through shared experiences.
Over the years, these exchange programs have created opportunities for over 1,500 scholars, community leaders, and government officials from both our countries to engage and share with one another.
And through our Education USA program, we’ve supported a steady increase in the number of Ethiopian students studying in the U.S.
During the current academic year, that number exceeded two thousand students, a 14% increase over the year before, making Ethiopia the 4th largest source of students from Africa studying in the United States.
But we need to open the door for an even greater volume of exchanges by encouraging direct partnerships between our institutions.
That’s where the concept of internationalization can help.
Internationalization in higher education is about how universities and colleges around the world can develop mutually beneficial relationships, creating direct exchanges that draw in diverse experiences, skills, and knowledge from around the world to their institutions.
And internationalization can help Ethiopian universities take the next step in their own growth and development.
The United States – both our government and our universities – have a long history of investing in Ethiopian higher education, going back over 60 years.
Oklahoma State University wanted to set up an agricultural university in Ethiopia in the early 1950s.
But there were so few students available that a high school was started instead, with assistance from the U.S. Government’s Point Four program, the precursor to the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The school that resulted was called the Jimma Agricultural Technical School, and eventually became Jimma University.
The Point Four program also established Alemaya University, now Haramaya University, and the Gondar College of Medical Sciences, which later became Gondar University.
These early U.S. investments helped build a foundation for the Ethiopian government’s own massive success in expanding higher education.
Over the past 15 years, Ethiopia has increased the number of accredited universities from 2 to 45 and is rapidly increasing undergraduate enrollment.
That rapid expansion has created many new opportunities, but it has also created challenges.
Today, Ethiopian universities are working to improve the quality of the educational experience, while also looking more holistically at what the university experience should include.
Academics are, of course, paramount, but increasingly around the world, higher education is also an important part of developing human capacity more broadly.
In the United States, universities are assessed as much by the type of social environment they provide as by what they offer in the classroom.
Other factors, such as extracurricular opportunities and employment outcomes, play huge roles as well.
We look to U.S. universities to help our young people develop new ideas, encounter new experiences, broaden critical thinking skills, think about their place in the world, and prepare themselves to be productive members of society.
We want our universities to prepare young people to fill the jobs we need to keep our economy running, and to innovate and bring the next big ideas to fruition.
We expect our universities to help our youth transition to adulthood, in a way that prepares them for success and, eventually, to become the leaders of our country.
Ethiopia, of course, needs the same things from its own young people, and from its universities.
We hope through this conference, which is organized jointly by the U.S. Embassy and the Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Higher Education, will strengthen the capacity of Ethiopian institutions to attract and develop the talent that can prepare Ethiopia’s students for the challenges they, and their country, will face in the future.
Over the next three days, you’ll have the chance to explore global trends in higher education, gain understanding about how internationalization can specifically benefit Ethiopian institutions, and develop practical skills for developing and making the most of relationships with foreign institutions.
As Ethiopia looks to a future that is fundamentally different than today – as it builds a future that is both more inclusive and more prosperous –Ethiopia’s youth must be prepared to lead the way, and that process can start with their university experience.
I would like to recognize Dr. Charles Bankart, Associate Vice Provost for International Affairs at the University of Kansas, for facilitating these discussions, as well as our current and former participants in the Fulbright and Ambassador’s Distinguished Scholars programs for sharing their wealth of knowledge and experience during the workshop.
I also want to warmly thank Her Excellency Dr. Hirut Woldemariam, Minister of Science and Higher Education, and her colleagues, for their enthusiasm and commitment in leading Ethiopian universities toward the bright future we all want to see Ethiopians achieve.
And lastly, thank you to all of our participants from Ethiopian institutions, who will be the ones that make these goals a reality.
I wish you all a very enjoyable and productive conference, and much success in the days ahead.