Open, transparent search process for Univ Pres & Trustees?

While the introduction of a new processes is one step forward toward a more accountable institutional system, its effectiveness depends on parallel reforms in the governance structure.

That would be in Ethiopia. From Inside Higher Ed:

Overshadowed by the country’s political crisis, a positive development in the Ethiopian higher education seems to go unnoticed. Following a 2017 directive issued by the Ministry of Education (MoE), public universities have started to use a more open, competitive, and transparent process for the selection and appointment of presidents. In the past four months alone, three institutions, Bahir Dar, Debre Markos and Addis Ababa universities have gone through this process to appoint new presidents. In doing so, the universities not only advertised the position, internally and externally, they also reported the progress of the selection process on their websites and social media outlets.

This is a significant departure from previous practice when university presidents were appointed by the Ministry in a more opaque process.

… Fourth, although it accounts for only 20% of the overall evaluation, the new selection procedure gives a voice to the university community. At AAU, for example, candidates were interviewed by a representative panel from the university community that included members of the senate, local and expatriate faculty, administrative staff, undergraduate and graduate students, special needs students, female students, and retired faculty members. In addition, a considerable number of people also aired opinions on social media. Such an inclusive process helps ease the inherently distrustful relationship between university leadership and the rest of the university community, particularly the academic staff. In the long run, this can translate into more participatory institutional governance anchored in sense of belonging and shared responsibility.

In the conversations that followed communications on social media, there were some who expressed doubts and concerns along with others who took a more optimistic tone. Some were skeptical about the extent to which the process can be free of government influence and how much fair it was for everyone who was, or wanted to be, involved. Others had a more cynical view that the whole thing might have been staged to make it look like a transparent competition, while it was predetermined who would get the position.

… Overall, one can see that concerns about the process are centered on whether professionalism can truly triumph over political favoritism in the leadership and administration of Ethiopian higher education. These concerns are not entirely unfounded. …  The legitimacy of these concerns is further substantiated by two factors. First, there does not seem to be a commensurate reform in the way board members of public universities are appointed. Of course, the directive has stipulated a list of criteria that describe who is eligible to become a board member. However, not only are the criteria very general and somewhat arbitrary, the responsibility for selecting and appointing all members of the board is entirely with the minister. Rather, the directive overrules the mandate of the university president who, according to Article 45(3) of the higher education proclamation, can nominate three voting members of the board, in consultation with the university council and senate. This, besides being a legal blunder, goes contrary to the direction taken in the selection of the president.

… While the introduction of the new selection processes is one step forward towards a more participatory and accountable institutional system, its effectiveness depends on parallel reforms in the governance structure at all levels. The major work is still ahead to create a more participatory and inclusive processes, at all levels, which accommodate diversity of opinions based on their merits.


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