Graduate training in life sciences began at Addis Ababa University in the Department of Biology in 1978/79 with the launching of MSc programs in two streams – Botany and Zoology. Since the initial launching of the programs, the teaching and research capacity of the Department gradually increased, thereby enabling the Department to expand its graduate programs to seven areas of specialization at the Master’s level and four areas of specialization at the PhD level. To further strengthen its graduate training and research activities and to foray into biotechnology, the Department initiated joint research and training programs in biotechnology with Swedish Universities in the 1980s and 1990s. Through these joint programs, faculty members were trained in the area of agricultural and industrial biotechnology and modest, yet sufficient, faculty was acquired. This allowed the opening of the Biotechnology Program Unit (BTPU), which started by offering MSc level training in 2006 as a unit independent of the Department of Biology.

In its first year, as a full-fledged academic unit, it admitted 10 postgraduate students. Since then, an average of 12 postgraduate students join the program each year, with the numbers expected to increase to 25 over the coming years. All the postgraduate students join the study program under the supervision of the staff of the Program Unit. Overall, a total of 23 experts have graduated with MSc degrees in Biotechnology up to July 2012. Most of these graduates are currently serving at institutions of higher education as well as in federal and regional research institutions.

Though Addis Ababa University was the trailblazer in starting a teaching-learning and research unit in biotechnology in the country, over the years other public higher-learning institutions(Jimma and Haramaya Universities) have also started offering postgraduate education at Master’s level and undergraduate education at Bachelor’s (Gonder and Mekelle Universities) level in biotechnology. Moreover, modest public biotechnology research facilities were acquired by some institutions (Holetta Agricultural Research Center, Amhara Biotechnology Center, Melkassa Agricultural Research Center) and others already in the process of establishing biotechnology research facilities (Haramaya University, Oromia Agricultural Research Institute,Jimma Agricultural Research Center). This calls for the need to establish a leading Biotechnology Institute with a mandate to train high caliber graduate students and researchers so as to carry out applied biotechnology research and contribute to the staffing needs of these new institutions and hence to the development needs of the nation. In line with this, Addis Ababa University has recently established the Institute of Biotechnology (IoB) mandated to carryout teaching and research activities under the direct oversight of the Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer. One of the first tasks of the Institute is to realize the initiative of the Biotechnology Program Unit to launch a PhD program in biotechnology for the 2012/13academic year.


The achievement of the long-term vision of transforming Ethiopia into a middle-income country demands a transformation of the economy through, among other things, conscious application of science, technology and innovation as the major instruments for development. Further, the transfer and adoption of proven technologies to the Ethiopian context will also play a monumental role. This, in turn requires strong human resources development policies that focus on science and technology education to train competent and innovative citizens. Accordingly, the Ministry of Education has given special attention to technology and the natural sciences, and has recently adopted a policy that allocates 70% of all incoming public higher education students to the areas of science and technology. This is clearly stated in the five year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) of the Federal Government and the Education Sector Development Program IV (ESDP IV) of the Ministry of Education.

One of the areas which the government has identified as critical for the realization of the nation’s aspiration is the establishment of several new universities with a focus on the field of natural sciences and engineering, and establishment of science and technology institutions. The national need for teaching and research staff in these new universities and institutions can partly be met by the expansion of the graduate programs at AAU. Moreover, the demand for research biotechnologist in leadership position in agriculture, industry, health and environment has increased with the adoption of a market-oriented economy in Ethiopia.

To supply talented and competent biotechnologists to the newly established institutions and programs, Addis Ababa University deemed it necessary to establish the Institute of Biotechnology, which conducts high caliber research as well as runs MSc and PhD Programs. This is absolutely necessary due to the increased demand from stakeholders in the area of biotechnology on the one hand, and the growing interest and capacity among different national institutions on the other. It is also believed that biotechnology is a leading scientific field of study that offers immense potential to leapfrog the country’s agriculture, industry, health, and environment and solve its endogenous problems. Moreover, it allows the transfer of proven technology in various areas of biotechnology and provides fertile ground for private sector biotechnology as an engine to capitalize on the great genetic resources that the country harbors.