By Dawit Endeshaw

Higher Education Relevance Quality Agency (HERQA) is discussing with private higher education institutions owners to introduce a new directive which will regulate them and possibly penalize them in case of breaches.

The directive, which was prepared by the Agency last year, was tabled to stakeholders including owners, presidents and associations of private higher education institutions for a final discussion. The discussion was meant to receive comments regarding the directive.

“Once we receive comments from the interested parties we will take them into consideration,” Tarekgne Geressu, communication head of the Agency told The Reporter.

The draft directive gives the Agency the power to penalize the institution which goes up to suing or charges them under civil and criminal law.

“The latest one is more detailed and specific than the zero draft,” Solomon Tadesse,” head of legal department at the Agency, said.

In addition, we added a list of principles along with the misconducts and penalties, he said. 

It categorizes the misconducts along with their corresponding penalties. In this respect it listed 15 misconducts and their corresponding penalties. The penalty varies from issuing a warning letter to cancellation of license.

Irregularities include opening branches and offering different programs without the permission of the Agency, registering students who do not fulfill the academic requirement and receiving students beyond the permitted enrollment by the Agency.

According to the directive any educational institution that starts to give service without the permission of the Agency will be barred for five years and would not involve in related activity. In addition, the Agency has the power to sue or charge the institution.

An institution that has the license but is caught while operating campuses and specific programs without a permission of the Agency will bear similar consequences. They will be forced to close down the campuses or the program. Not only that they will be allowed to open it for the coming five years ahead.

Moreover, if the institution receives students beyond the enrollment limit and commit the violation consecutively, the respective program will be closed at least for the coming four years.

Established 14 years ago, HERQA has a mandate to regulate higher education institutions. The directive will empower the Agency to execute its proclamation. 

In its preamble, the directive stated that the extent of illegality is becoming a serious problem in a number of higher education institutions. Given this, the higher education proclamation, which was drafted eight years ago, has been identified to have a gap in overcoming the problem and at the same time hold those responsible accountable.

The Agency, which has its offices only in Addis Ababa, oversees around 111 colleges, universities, university-colleges and institutes scattered across the country.

This directive will be effective for offenses that were committed before the approval of the directive. However, those who fail to correct their mistake with two months upon the approval of the directive will be questioned under the directive.

There is a misperception from some of the private-owned institutions that the directive is being introduced only to target the private owned, Tarekgne said. This is a wrong perception, he added.

The directive has come to treat all equally – both private and public, he said.