© 2018

Higher Education in Ethiopia

Structural Inequalities and Policy Responses


  • Presents the first comprehensive account of inequality and policy responses in Ethiopian higher education

  • Reveals the tension between neoliberal reform agendas and educational justice goals in the context of a developing country

  • Elucidates factors and expressions of structural inequality in higher education

  • Offers a new analytical framework for redefining inequality in higher education as capability deprivation


Part of the Education Policy & Social Inequality book series (EPSI, volume 2)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Tebeje Molla
    Pages 1-12
  3. Context

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 13-13
    2. Tebeje Molla
      Pages 35-58
  4. Problem

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 59-59
    2. Tebeje Molla
      Pages 61-80
    3. Tebeje Molla
      Pages 81-100
  5. Policy

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 123-123
    2. Tebeje Molla
      Pages 125-143
    3. Tebeje Molla
      Pages 145-164
    4. Tebeje Molla
      Pages 165-184
    5. Tebeje Molla
      Pages 185-198

About this book


This book focuses on higher education in Ethiopia, analysing persisting inequalities and policy responses against the backdrop of the extensive expansion and reform that the system has experienced in recent years. Drawing on empirical data generated through interviews, policy reviews and focus-group discussions, it explicates factors of structural inequality ranging from neoliberal policy orientations to repressive gender culture and geo-political peripherality. 

In a departure from conventional studies that consider policy a response to social problems, the book takes a critical perspective to show the constitutive role of policy, and explains how the representation of the problem of social inequality undermines equity policy outcomes in Ethiopian higher education. Not only does the book problematise the framing of the problem of inequality in the system, it also outlines strategies for designing transformative equity instruments.  In explaining structural factors of inequality and equity provisions, the book productively combines sociological concepts with historical accounts and political economy insights. 

Given the increased economic optimism associated with higher education in sub-Saharan Africa and the neoliberal ideals underpinning much of the restructuring of the system in the region, this is a timely and important contribution that sheds light on the social justice implications and consequences of such changes. It offers fresh accounts of largely neglected qualitative cases of inequality, making it a valuable read for students and researchers in the areas of Ethiopian education policy studies, international and comparative education, and international development.


Amartya Sen Capability Approach Capability Deprivation Education funding Educational justice Higher Education in Africa Higher Education in Ethiopia Knowledge Economy Persisting Inequalities in Higher Education Pierre Bourdieu Policy Silences Poverty Reduction Strategy Structural Inequality in Higher Education Widening Access in Higher Education affirmative action admission policy critical policy sociology inequality as a policy issue policy responses to inequality policy responses to inequality in higher education public universities in Ethiopia

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Deakin UniversityGeelongAustralia

About the authors

Tebeje Molla is a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Education, Deakin University, Australia. His research focuses on education policy analysis, social justice in and through education, educational development aid, national research training policy, and teacher professional learning. His publications appear in leading international journals in the field of sociology of education. As a research student and researcher, he has benefited from scholarships and grants awarded by, among others, the European Commission, the Australian Government, the Open Society, and Deakin University.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Higher Education in Ethiopia
  • Book Subtitle Structural Inequalities and Policy Responses
  • Authors Tebeje Molla
  • Series Title Education Policy & Social Inequality
  • Series Abbreviated Title Education Policy & Social Inequality
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018
  • Publisher Name Springer, Singapore
  • eBook Packages Education Education (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-981-10-7931-3
  • Softcover ISBN 978-981-13-5684-1
  • eBook ISBN 978-981-10-7933-7
  • Series ISSN 2520-1476
  • Series E-ISSN 2520-1484
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XVII, 198
  • Number of Illustrations 7 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Higher Education
    International and Comparative Education
    Educational Policy and Politics
    Sociology of Education
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


“This book presents the first comprehensive account of inequality and equity policy in Ethiopian higher education. It briefly outlines the history of higher education development in Ethiopia; shows how the interplay between history, culture, politics, rurality and foreign aid has contributed to the persistence of inequality in the system; and problematizes equity measures put in place in the last two decades. This is a timely book. It is well informed by detailed field research and a productive synthesis of interdisciplinary theoretical thinking tools. This though-provoking book can be of great interest to higher education policymakers, education policy researchers, development partners, academics, and anyone committed to tackling structural factors of educational inequality.”(Abebaw Yirga Adamu (PhD, MA, MEd), Director, Ethiopian Institute for Higher Education, Addis Ababa University)