Analysis: Students, Families opt to enroll in private universities due to security concerns; Ministry hints public universities will be ready in two weeks

School leaving students queuing in front of Nation Exam Agency in Addis Abeba. Archive/2019

By Etenesh Abera @EteneshAb

Addis Abeba, April 27, 2021 – According to the Ministry of Education (MoE), more than 358,000 students took the national university entrance exam to pursue higher education in the upcoming academic year 2020/21 (2013 E.C.). In Addis Abeba alone more than 23,560 have taken the exam. The Ministry of Science and Higher education (MoSHE) announced that 147,640 students will be expected to join 47 government universities.

From the data Addis Standard obtained from MoSHE website for the current academic year, students will be distributed to all five different universities registered under MoSHE:  research, applied science, general, science and technology and technical universities and according to MoSHE ready to accept students. .

Solomon is a resident of Addis Abeba and one of the students who took the university entrance exam and scored higher than the minimum score set to join the social sciences stream. Solomon told Addis Standard, “I scored 471 in the entrance exam in the social sciences stream. I didn’t apply or select my preferred university to be placed in as requested by MoSHE. If my placement was going to be outside Addis Abeba, I wouldn’t have gone anyways.” He continued “That’s why I enrolled in one of the private university colleges by paying all registration fees plus the first semester fee which is around 4,500 ETB,’’ while explaining that the reason he took such a measure was ‘feeling unsafe outside Addis Abeba’ due to the deteriorating security situation in the country and fear of violence following the upcoming general election.

Bamelak is another student who scored 503 in the natural sciences stream and told Addis Standard that he is not willing to travel outside Addis Abeba to seek higher education. This feeling of the absence of security is empowered by the deteriorating security situation, fear of violence after general elections and the different attacks carried on students in different parts of the country, most recently the killing of a high school student who was sitting for the national exams by Oromia Special Forces in March of this year.

If my son gets enrolled at Addis Abeba University then be it, otherwise since I don’t have the financial capacity to enroll him in a private university, he has to wait until the coming year,”


This feeling of the absence of security has become a reality and a decision making factor for many families and students in Addis Abeba. From witnesses Addis Standard spoke to on the course of its investigations, even very low incoming families are unwilling to send their children outside of the capital for fear of their safety. “If my son gets enrolled at Addis Abeba University (AAU) then be it otherwise since I don’t have the financial capacity to enroll him in a private university, he has to wait until the coming year,”  said Selam, a mother of one who is working as a housemaid, while adding, “ If he is not accepted, I will save what I can and see what we can do by next year’’ 

Addis Standard, visited a number of private universities and learned that a huge number of students who took the national university entrance exams who happen to be residents of Addis Abeba are enrolling in large numbers. Registrar officers from different private universities have also confirmed this to Wazema Radio.  

“Government universities are ready to host their students in the coming two weeks. ”

Amelework Hezikel

The Communication Director of MoSHE,  Amelework Hezikel does not support the rush of the student’s to enroll in a private higher education centers before the official placement. She said, “Government universities are ready to host their students in the coming two weeks. We have been advertising on our social media platforms and mainstream media for the students to change their university selection based on the new categorization of public universities based on academic streams. We as MOSHE encourage those students have passed the national university entrance exams to join public universities.’’

According to the director, “Since the Private Higher Education centers are registering with the proper criteria outlined by the ministry, it is not the ministry to interfere and stop them from registering the students despite our wish that they join public universities. It is important to point out that this huge influx towards private universities will affect the ability of students who did not pass the national exam or were not able to secure a seat at public universities to enroll.”  Amelework explained to Addis Standard that the ministry in cooperation with other government institutions is working towards making the universities suitable for students and able to provide high quality education, security and other related demands. .

It is noteworthy to mention that with more than 110,000 students enrolled in private universities in 2016 alone, the Ethiopian Private Higher Education Institutions Association is the second largest in sub-Saharan Africa. AS

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