Academic journal article Social Development Issues

International Higher Education Partnerships: Concept Mapping of the Processes and Outcomes of USAID-Funded Projects in Ethiopia

Academic journal article Social Development Issues

International Higher Education Partnerships: Concept Mapping of the Processes and Outcomes of USAID-Funded Projects in Ethiopia

Article excerpt

Introduction

As universities strive to become more global, international higher education partnerships (IHEPs) promise to play an increasingly important role in advancing societal or locale development and in contributing to more economically and socially just societies. Expanded societal expectations for higher education, particularly making the research-informed knowledge base more accessible to high-need communities, is one of the principal factors driving institutions of higher education to incorporate such partnerships into their missions. Those missions may emphasize social responsibility for the production and use of knowledge as a key element of institutional relevance. No longer is it easy for institutions of higher education to separate themselves from communities of need and to insulate their research from knowledge utilization for the purposes of advancing the public good. Collaborative research in community settings, cocurricular projects, service learning, and engaged research is just one of the recent and somewhat novel expressions of institutional social responsibility in higher education.

The idea of an IHEP reframes the relationship between an external university and its host country, university, or community. International partnerships in higher education are unique as a development tool. They serve as vehicles for the exchange of resources and the cocreation of strategies and programs to advance local well-being. Mutually held values of respect, dignity, mutual support, and collegiality undergird such development. Those mutually held values become important not only in forming such partnerships but in sustaining them as well. An ethic of reciprocity is central to ensuring the equity of a partnership. Through collaboration, multiple parties identify exchange relationships from which all parties can benefit. The formation of mutually beneficial relationships becomes central to the advancement of partnerships in international projects.

International higher education partnerships are an important component of social development involving university-to-university connections between the United States and the developing world. For example, from 1992 to 2014, Higher Education for Development (HED; 2014b), with funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), supported more than 350 higher education partnerships in more than sixty-one countries, involving 140 U.S. colleges and universities. Higher Education for Development ceased operation in 2015 when USAID announced that it would work directly with universities (Lederman, 2013), but aside from archived project reports on the HED website, there is now a tremendous gap in both the practice and knowledge base related to these many international higher education projects. Recognizing this lack of systematic research on the processes and outcomes of IHEPs with a particular emphasis on institutional capacity building, this article will use concept mapping methodology to examine eight HED-funded higher education partnerships between Ethiopian and U.S. universities between 1998 and 2005.

Ethiopia reflects the challenges that Africa as a continent faces in social development, whose strategies can advance the well-being and quality of life of its citizens living in poverty. In 2007, Ethiopia's annual population was 74 million; its overall population growth rate was 2.6 percent. By 2014, 47 percent of its population was fifteen years of age or younger. Only approximately 16 percent of people reside in urban areas, with the balance living in small towns or villages in rural regions. The extreme poverty of the Ethiopian population produces negative consequences involving low life expectancy, diminished standard of living, and low per capita income that singularly and together reveal the fragility of daily life. Maternal child health is a serious challenge facing Ethiopia; the maternal mortality rate is 673 per 100,000 live births (Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, 2014). …

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