Three doctoral students and two master students share their experiences after one semester with engineering studies at the University of Stavanger.
Together with Jimma University and Wollega University in Ethiopia, UiS has been awarded NOK 19.1 million for the education project INDMEET (Institutional Network for Design and Manufacturing Education & Training). It is a six-year partnership project between the Faculty of Science and Technology at UiS and two universities in Ethiopia. The project started summer 2022.
Now the first group of students have finished a semester in Stavanger. What are their experiences after half a year in Norway?
"I've gradually been adapting to the temperature," says Naol Dessalegn Dejene. He is doing a PhD degree in mechanical engineering where he researches 3D-printing of powder-based metal suitable for hi-tech industries such as health technology.
"I'm working on the challenges with the physical part of it. It's important that my research is close to the realities," Dejene says.
Fellow student Ahmed Kedir's PhD project specializes in mechanical engineering suitable for power-plant reactors.
"During operation we need to prevent failures. In Ethiopia my work could be applicable for sugar factories run on nuclear reactors," Kedir says.
The students arrived in Stavanger early autumn. Even though the time at UiS has been rewarding, the students have met some challenges since they got accepted to the exchange programme. They have all had some delays in their studies, due to challenging political circumstances in their home country. Internet and phone shutdown has become the new normal in some regions in Ethiopia, a weapon used by the government to control and censor information.
The contrast between the situation in Ethiopia and Norway is big. PhD student Fakada Dabalo Gurmesa describes University of Stavanger as a modern and well-equipped university that gives the students the best conditions to do their research.
"It is very different from the universities in Ethiopia. Here everything is accessible online or in the library. The technological development is the biggest difference between UiS and our universities back home," Gurmesa says.
The students would love to finish their degree in Stavanger, but the PhD mobility grant is just for one year.
"It would be fantastic to do all courses here. When we go back, I hope it will be okay, but we don't have access to resources like we have here. I'm also concerned about completing my project. The fear is that we won't make it on time," Naol Dejene says.
The education project aims to strengthen the institutional capacity in Ethiopia in order to improve the quality of engineering education and technical training.
"Among other things, the UiS team will contribute by applying problem-based teaching methods we have experience with at the Department of Mechanical and Structural Engineering and Materials Science. The goal is better learning and to motivate innovation that can contribute to the development of independent industry in Ethiopia, says project leader Hirpa Gelgele Lemu, professor at UiS.
A total of 12 female students have received mobility grants from the project. Tsion Birku Yimer and Yadeshi Gurmessa are the first girls participating in the mobility project.
"All in all, this has been a good experience with excellent opportunities for lab work, and good access to software. We don't have that much material tools back home. But off course, we see big differences regarding the culture and the weather," Yimer says with a smile. She is now going back to Ethiopia for the remaining one semester of her master's degree.
The PhD students are still early in their academic careers. What are their thoughts for the future?
"I'm not sure yet. When I'm finished, I'll have time to decide what to do further. My research area is good for my country which is in the transition between manual and mass production. This was a big deal just a few years ago. Now the industry is more automated, in the stage between craft and mass production. An industrial revolution is going on, and it's a challenge to implement new technology," Naol Dejene says.
Fakada Dabalo Gurmesa agrees.
"Advanced research like my field might not be applicable for working at home, but maybe I'll get a chance to work somewhere else," Gurmesa says.
The way forward
The four students sum up the study stay in Norway as a good experience, even though it's only for a limited period.
"Good lecturers and excellent access to equipment. All in all, this has been a great opportunity," Tsion Yimer says.
She will soon finish her master's degree in Ethiopia while the PhD students continues for half a year in Stavanger.
"Being a PhD is a lot about commitments. It is easier to focus on the work here," Ahmed Kedir says, thankful for the time at University of Stavanger.
Text and photo: Kjersti Riiber
The project consists of education, research, TVET (technical and vocational education and training) and institutional capacity building. New doctoral programmes in mechanical design and manufacturing and master's programmes in design engineering will be developed and launched at Jimma University and Wollega University.
12 (female students)