I would like to call upon all learned scholars to use their education, expertise and experience to foster and advance the country’s agenda of socio-economic transformation by heavily engaging in research. This statement was made by Dr. Arega Yirdaw, President of Unity University and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MIDROC Ethiopia Technology Group Companies, at the opening of the 14th edition of the Annual Multidisciplinary Research Conference, on June 19, 2015.
In his Opening Speech at the two-day Annual Multidisciplinary Research Conference, organized by the Research and Publications Office, Unity University, and held in the Conference Hall of the MIDROC Ethiopia Technology Group Corporate Center, Mechare Meda, Dr. Arega underlined that the number of scholars who would like to present their research papers at Unity University’s Annual Conference is growing by the year. He made note of the logistic, organizational and financial challenges that arranging such a gathering would demand, and reiterated, “It is with this predicament that Unity University has been organizing, sponsoring and conducting the Multidisciplinary Conference annually, without interruption, for the past 13 years, this one being the 14th.”
The President went on to underscore the role the research forum had continued to play in enhancing research undertakings. He said, “This annual forum has provided Ethiopian and foreign scholars an encouraging environment and unique opportunity to share their experiences and empirical knowledge as well as to explore through their research works the various problems facing our country and humanity in general.” He further noted, “I am happy to disclose that many institutions of higher learning in this country are vigorously embracing the practice of conducting annual research conferences as an important ingredient of the teaching-learning process.”
Going further into the nature of research works, Dr. Arega pointed out that research is a “careful study that is done to find and report new knowledge about something”. Elaborating on this, he said, “It is the activity of getting information about a subject. It is widely acknowledged that research is a forcefully effective tool for investigating unknown or already identified problems in order to deliberate on complex and debatable issues and to disseminate the findings, conclusions and recommendations to policy makers as well as to other stakeholders.” He added, “The purpose of our Annual Multidisciplinary Research Conference is precisely to accomplish such lofty objectives.”
Dr. Arega briefly discussed about the two categories of research that is basic and applied, and emphatically noted, “We should change our emphasis on the allocation ratio between the two research categories in favors of applied research, but I am not insinuating in any way, that basic research should be overlooked altogether.” He argued that in a developing country like Ethiopia, “great emphasis must be accorded to applied research rather than to the basic”.
The President dwelt at length on the challenging tasks institutions of higher learning are entrusted with and the pivotal role research would play in the process. He reminded, “To accomplish this indispensable important mission, it is obligatory for institutions of higher learning to carryout purpose-oriented, high-quality and problem-solving researches as regularly as possible. The complex task of transferring knowledge and experience from instructors to learners is continuously enhanced and developed through research.” To this end, Dr. Arega made note of “the present trend of increasing interest in research that is being demonstrated by our young scholars”.
Dr. Arega gave a detailed account of the historical development of Unity University since its establishment in March 1998, as the first private college in the country. He went through the subsequent developments of the institution to its present status, where, he said, “the University is aspiring to be a center of excellence in the field of leadership, an area so vital to strike proper balance between management and leadership in running private and public organizations.” In this connection, he pronounced that Unity University has three major focus areas, namely, Business and Leadership, Engineering, and Health Sciences; whereas Unity has embarked on General Education, which runs from KG to Preparatory grades, as its fourth area of focus. This latter one, he said, aims at enhancing the quality of education.
In conclusion, Dr. Arega made mention of the various links Unity University had established with other institutions of higher learning, both within the country and abroad. He pointed out that the rationale of establishing such links was “to foster cooperation in student and academic staff exchange programmes as well as to undertake joint activities such as research”.
In his Welcome Address earlier on, Professor Desta Hamito, Academic Vice President, Unity University, underlined that research is one “important as well as challenging task” of higher education institutions. He pointed out that research requires several important ingredients, such as human, material, financial inputs and individual commitment. In this connection, the Academic Vice President reiterated, “There is a need to have a comprehensive national policy on research, which is inclusive of both public and private universities.”
With this as the background, Prof. Desta went into the duties and responsibilities the Unity University Research and Publications Office was entrusted with by the Legislation, which involves planning and coordinating research-related activities. He further noted that Unity University had developed a mechanism, through which it made its research outputs accessible by the general public. He said, “The University has two major academic publications: one is a journal (The Ethiopian Journal of Business and Development) and the other is a proceedings publication.” He added, “So far, the Research Office has published 80 research papers in 16 issues of the Journal.”
As regards the current Research Conference, Prof. Desta pointed out that the University received 80 abstracts, from which the Selection Committee selected 25 papers to be presented at the Conference. He went on to note that the major themes of the Conference were “more comprehensive than that of the other years”; in that the researchers came from 14 universities, namely, Adama, Addis Ababa, Arbaminch, Arssi, Bahir Dar, Debre Berhan, Dilla, Dire Dawa, Haramaya, Hawassa, Madawalabu, Unity, Wolayta, and Wollo universities and one researcher from a commercial organisation. The Academic Vice President said, “This shows how much higher education institutions have given importance to our University’s Annual Multidisciplinary Research Conference.”
Speaking about the unique features of the current Research Conference, Prof. Desta revealed, “First, the Conference has brought 14 universities to the same forum to discuss their findings; secondly, four of the 25 papers selected came from Unity’s postgraduate students. This is indicative of the fact that the postgraduate programme is emerging to play a leading role in research; and thirdly, the University has taken the lion’s share, that is, 24% of the presentations.”
It was learnt that the themes for the 14th edition of the Unity University Annual Multidisciplinary Research Conference revolved around Educational Training and Quality of Education, which involved five papers; Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, which covered five papers; Economic Growth, Trade and Finance, covering six papers; Health, which involved four papers; and other Cross-Cutting Issues, which involved five papers.
Following the preliminaries of the Opening Ceremony, the first two papers were presented in the plenary session and the other sessions continued in two syndicate groups. Participants had had the opportunity to attend the sessions of their likings, after having identified their areas of interest from Conference Programme made available by the organisers. Each session was followed by time allowed for discussion, whereby participants aired their views, comments and suggestions; and the presenters addressed them with scholarly manner.
The Conference culminated with the award of Certificates of acknowledgement to Presenters and Moderators, following which Dr. Arega Yirdaw delivered his Closing Remark, in which he thanked all those who contributed towards making the Conference a reality. He pointed out that the participants were not only scholars, as there were also Managers among them. In this connection, he said, “The presentations add value to Unity. Unity has a lot to learn from the Conference.” The President appreciated that there were so many young scholars among the presenters; and that there were presenters from far away.
Regarding future directions, Dr. Arega stressed that there needs to be a standard in the presentation of papers, so that we would be able to get quality papers. He also extended his advice to encourage joint research among universities. “This”, he said, “helps to produce productive and responsible citizens”. He concluded by asking, “Why are educators shying away from national issues? Government needs information; and universities are expected to provide this through research findings. I am challenging you.”