External Influences and Higher Education Reform in Ethiopia: On Symbolic Power of the World Bank

Tebeje Molla


Increasingly national policy processes are intersected with and affected by global policy actors and ideas. In aid-recipient countries such as Ethiopia, donors use financial and non-financial means to influence national policy decisions and directions. This paper is about the non-financial influence of the World Bank (WB) in the Ethiopian higher education policy reform. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic power as a ‘thinking tool’, the paper aims to shed light on forms of symbolic capital that the Bank uses to generate a ‘misrecognisable’ form of power that regulates the HE policy process in Ethiopia. The findings show that the WB transforms its symbolic capital of recognition and legitimacy to establish a ‘shared misrecognition’ and thereby make its policy prescriptions implicit and hence acceptable to local policy agents. The Bank uses knowledge-based regulatory instruments to induce compliance to its neoliberal policy prescriptions. The paper therefore underscores the value of symbol power as an analytical framework to understand elusive but critical role of donors in policy processes of aid recipient countries.


Bourdieu; Ethiopia; higher education refrom; aid; symbolic power

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4471/rise.2013.28

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