Eritrea has seen a change in its higher education system in the period 2004–2010. However, this reform is not a change in the system itself, but a change in the number of institutions offering higher education in the country. The system of diploma-, bachelor- (and master-) programmes has remained more or less the same, except for the fact that the number of programs has increased.
The University of Asmara has been the only institution of higher education in the whole country. All issues related to higher education have been concentrated around the university. To be able to offer higher education to a larger number of students, the government decided to close the University of Asmara, with no new intake of students after 2003. Then they upgraded seven of the underlying colleges of the university to independent institutions of higher education. Some of the new colleges have also been moved to other parts of the country, and one could say that there has been a decentralisation of higher education in Eritrea. The result is that Eritrea today has seven institutions offering higher education, and the number of students attending programs of higher education has risen from around 5000 students at the University of Asmara in 2004 to around 17 000 students attending programmes at the new colleges of higher education today.
The University of Asmara’s main programme were the diploma programme and the bachelor's degree; and was only able to introduce the master's degree programme in 2004 just before closing. Today we see that most of the new colleges of higher education have already introduced many new master's degree programmes or are planning to introduce master's degree programmes in the near future.
The reforms in neighbouring Ethiopia have been far more wide reaching with changes in both secondary and higher education.
Since the late 1990s, the number of higher education institutions has risen dramatically as has the number of students. The government has opened up for private higher education institutions, and established more than 15 new public universities, bringing the total number of public institutions to just over 30. The private higher education sector has grown exponentially in number of institutions, but the majority of students still attend the public universities.
Secondary education has changed with the introduction of the “Preparatory Year”, which in practice is an amalgamation between the 12th grade and the freshman year of higher education.
The diploma programmes ceased to be higher education with the last batch of students graduating in 2006/2007. Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) has today both taken on, and expanded, the role the older diplomas had in the Ethiopian educational system.
The reforms in Ethiopia have moved back and forth on the question of normative length of degree studies, going from 4 to 3 and then back to 4 years again for a regular bachelors. Nor are the reform processes over. The government has recently started a drive for all higher education institutions to streamline subjects into a national plan favouring technical subjects.
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