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Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies

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Dr. Emnet Tadesse Woldegiorgis

Woldegiorgis Dr. Emnet Tadesse Woldegiorgis

Personal Information

Emnet Tadesse Woldegiorgis (Ph.D.) has been researching higher education issues in Africa since 2006. He did his Ph.D. at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, where he has also been working as a post-doctoral researcher between 2015 and 2018. Currently, he is appointed as an associate professor of Higher Education studies at the University of Johannesburg. His research focuses on internationalization and regionalization of higher education processes in Africa, South-South partnership models. He did his joint Master's Degree in Higher Education Studies at Oslo University in Norway, Tampere University in Finland and Aveiro University in Portugal. He is certified in two advanced-level research training in higher education in the Netherlands at the Centre for Institutional Cooperation (ICIS) Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam; and training on Leadership and Management of Higher Education Institutions in Maastricht School of Management. Prior to his Ph.D. research, he has been working as Head of Quality Assurance Office, Department Head and team leader at Mekelle University, Ethiopia, for four years. He has published a number of articles and book chapters on higher education issues particularly, theories of regionalization and internationalization, student mobility, cost-sharing, and harmonization of higher education systems in Africa. Currently, he is working on the re-conceptualization of academic freedom in Africa taking context from Ethiopia.  


Project Description

“Reconceptualizing Academic Freedom: Perspectives from Ethiopian Higher Education System”

Since the inception of universities, the freedom to pursue intellectual inquiry has served as a core value for academic communities and higher educational institutions. Because of the unique characteristics of higher education institutions and their unequivocal authority in the pursuit of truth, knowledge, and innovation, enjoying exclusive academic freedom has always been indicated as a crucial factor for their existence. Academic freedom is no more simply a philosophical luxury a university could function just as effectively, and much more efficiently, without. It has rather become the key legitimating concept of the entire enterprise. There has however been a constant debate not only on the philosophy and the practice of academic freedom but also on the very conceptualization of the subject matter in academic research. Even though higher education institutions as centres of academic enquiry embrace certain common and universal characteristics, they all operate within a certain socio-economic and political reality, which may influence the way we conceptualize and discuss academic freedom. To replicate concepts without considering different contexts may lead us into a self-sustaining cycle of misunderstanding and resentment, which is neither definitive nor complete. A broader look into literature reveals that understanding of academic freedom lacks clarity and consistency in terms of definition, concepts, indicators, and context (Altbach, 2001). What exactly is academic freedom? What instruments should be used to evaluate or measure it? When is it freedom from, freedom for, freedom to, or freedom with? Does context matter in the nature, form, shape, and voice of academic freedom? What are the empirical indicators of academic freedom irrespective of whether or not a country claims to be democratic? to what extent is academic freedom possible or worth contemplating at all, in a context, where a county is labelled as ‘not a democracy’? How similar or different from other freedoms is academic freedom? What is the possibility, however remote, of academic freedom being mobilized to advance other interests and privileges other than academic? How does the nexus among different concepts on professional authority, social responsibility, institutional autonomy, and accountability reflect on the institutionalization of academic freedom? This research is intended to explore, reflect and conceptualize the notion of academic freedom taking the Ethiopian higher Education space as a case and provide a comprehensive research approach that could accommodate more perspectives beyond the UNESCO indicators. The research also investigates the challenges of enforcement mechanizes and the institutional frameworks available to realize academic freedom in the Ethiopian higher education system.

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