Nov 23 , 2019

The nation’s education quality and relevance agency penalized two private institutes of higher learning after it found that they had not fulfilled the necessary criteria.

The measures were taken against Paradise Valley College and Ethio-Smart College by the Higher Education Relevance & Quality Agency (HERQA) this month. The allegation made against both institutions is related to operating without accreditation.

The Agency closed down Paradise Valley’s Adama Campus for registering and teaching students in the pharmacy programme without accreditation. Paradise Valley is also required to submit a list of names of students taking courses in the accredited programmes of the institution at the Adama campus, which has 10 degree programmes, so it can facilitate their transfer to other campuses.

"We have also heard that the College is registering unqualified students and attempting to fake signatures of the Agency to make it look like they have accreditation," said Tamirat Motta, deputy director of the Agency.

The College, which also has campuses in Shashemene, Hawassa, Negele and Dilla, had previously received a warning for teaching programmes in automotive technology and automotive engineering that it was not accredited for. They were suspended for two years from requesting to begin teaching the two programmes.

The dean of the Adama Campus of Paradise Valley, established almost a decade ago, argues that the Agency has no evidence to make the allegations.

“What they did is personal. We haven’t registered students in the mentioned programmes in the current year,” said Mehari Dessalegn, who admits that the College has asked the Agency to get accreditation to give courses in the programmes. “We were told to show where the students would be able to intern once we received accreditation, and we have been trying to satisfy this requirement ever since.”

It was wrong to shut down the campus entirely, because the Agency could have merely cancelled the programmes if it thought they were being taught at the campus, according to Mehari.

Ethio-Smart College is also accused of giving courses in programmes it is not accredited for. The College saw the cancellation of its two accredited postgraduate programmes, master of business administration and master of science in accounting & finance.

The College was allegedly found operating seven post-graduate programmes that the college was not accredited for. It also taught 250 students in accredited programmes when it was only allowed 40, according to the Agency.

"If they have the capacity of accepting 250 students in a single programme, they should have asked the Agency to revise their license," said Tamirat.

This is not the first time that the Agency, established in 2003, took measures against private higher learning institutions. In an audit taken by the Agency earlier this year on 167 private institutions in and around Addis Abeba, it found irregularities against 46 of them.

The colleges were found to be teaching regular classes when in fact they had permits to teach distance learning programmes, had out-of-date accreditation certificates, changing locations without notifying the Agency, and using unapproved higher institutional teaching titles.

Until the end of the last fiscal year, there were 395,739 students in 236 private colleges and universities in the country. Around half of these were opened just last year.

Tirusew Teferra (Prof), lecturer at Addis Abeba University's College of Education & Behavioural Studies for four decades, believes that the Agency is taking the appropriate measures if indeed the institutions disregarded the Agency’s guidelines.

“But it would be more effective to consider the professional background of parties that aim to establish private learning institutions in the first place,” he said.

Fortune’sattempt to reach Ethio-Smart by phone bore no fruit.

PUBLISHED ON Nov 23,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1021]

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