The Missing Link in Donor Prescribed Educational Reforms: Lack of Ownership (The Case of the World Bank in Ethiopian Higher Education)

Habtamu Diriba Garomssa


The World Bank (WB) as an international policy transfer and diffusion agent has been actively involved in orchestrating and driving Higher Education (HE) reforms globally. Such impact of the Bank has arguably, been more evident in the context of loan recipient countries. By using a hard mode of influence (financial), and more subtle or soft modes of influence (knowledge based and symbolic), the Bank has been steering the HE system of loan recipient countries, to which Ethiopia is not an exception. The Bank justifies its involvement by illuminating on the capacity deficit that is widely prevalent in borrowing countries. Notwithstanding, the solid expert base the Bank has, this paper contends that, the Bank is not creating sufficient spaces for local actors to collaborate in. Even when the Bank creates avenues to stimulate discussion on proposed reform ideas, such platforms merely serve the purpose of legitimizing the predetermined reforms ideas of the Bank rather than giving national actors a genuine opportunity to critically challenge, the purported reform ideas of the Bank. This has resulted in, among other things; failure to capitalize on the HE expertise of loan recipient countries, the crafting of reforms that do not resonate with borrowing countries context and most importantly, lack of ownership of the proposed reforms and their sustainability. In line with that, this paper argues for a shift in approach from the current strong top-down approach to a balanced approach that gives sufficient spaces and most importantly recognition for bottom up actors, ideas and initiatives.

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

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