Haramaya University has gone through a series of transformations since its establishment as a higher learning institution. The agreement signed between the Imperial Ethiopian Government and the Government of the United States of America on May 15, 1952 laid the foundations for the establishment of Jimma Agricultural and Technical School and the Imperial College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts (IECAMA). The Agreement between the Government of Ethiopia and the Technical Cooperation Administration of the Government of the United States of America, signed on May 16, 1952, gave the mandate to Oklahoma State University to establish and operate the College, conduct a nationwide system of Agricultural Extension and set up an agricultural research and experimental station.Based on the Emperor’s wish, it was decided to establish the College at its current location at Haramaya. Later on, the agreement signed between the United States Department of States and the Imperial Government provided the basis for the operation of Jimma Agricultural and Technical School that received its first class of eighty students in October 1952. Out of this numbers, nineteen of them graduated on August 6, 1953 and became the first freshman students of the Imperial Ethiopian College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts (IECAMA). The IECAMA opened its doors to its first batch of students in October 1956 and the senior class moved from Addis Ababa to Alemaya for their final semester. At the end of the 1956/57 academic year, eleven students completed their studies and graduated with a B.Sc. degree in General Agriculture. The training programs in Agriculture were further specialized and B.Sc. programs were introduced in Animal Sciences (1960), Plant Sciences (1960), Agricultural Engineering (1961) and Agricultural Economics (1962).Until 1963, the college was virtually dependent on Oklahoma State University, both administratively and academically; however, after 1966, when the first Ethiopian dean was appointed, the role of Americans was limited to advisory and technical support. The College became a chartered member of Addis Ababa University (the then Haile Selassie I University), following the contractual termination of Oklahoma State University in 1968. Consequently, it was named Alemaya College of Agriculture. Due to the great need of trained manpower in other areas of study, additional programs that included a diploma program in Home Economics (1967), Science Teachers’ Training Program (1978), and Continuing Education Program (1980), were launched.
A major landmark in the history of the College of Agriculture was the launching of graduate study programs in the 1979/80 academic year. This laid down the foundation for advanced academic and research work at the institution. When graduate studies were launched, about 29 students were enrolled to study various fields of agriculture.
Another major landmark in the history of Alemaya College of Agriculture came about when the institution was upgraded to university status on May 27, 1985, followed by the addition of the Faculty of Forestry in 1987. It was then named Alemaya University of Agriculture that produced qualified manpower in the fields of Animal Sciences, Plant Sciences, Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Engineering, Agricultural Extension and Forestry both at graduate and undergraduate levels. Moreover, in the continuing education program, diploma-level training programs were delivered in Accounting and Management, in Dire Dawa and Harar centers.
The university once again went through another phase of transformation during the 1995/96 academic year by launching new programs in the fields of Teacher Education and Health. The opening of the two faculties, namely the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Health Sciences, further diversified the existing programs, and enabled the institution to become a full fledged university that was renamed Alemaya University (AU).
In the last few years, the University has witnessed tremendous expansion in terms of fields of study. In September 2002, two more faculties, namely the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Business and Economics, were added. Furthermore, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the Faculty of Technology were initiated in 2003 and 2004, respectively to further diversify the training programs of the university. The institution was renamed Haramaya University in February 2006. In 2008/09 academic year Faculty of Computing and Informatics and Faculty of Applied Sciences have been launched.
The University, apart from undergraduate programs, has been highly engaged in the expansion and diversification of graduate programs. Currently, the University offers second degree (M.Sc. / M.Ed.) training programs in 28 fields of study and PhD level training programs in 10 fields of studies.
The University has been actively involved in research activities, primarily in the fields of agriculture, since its inception. Through the years, the institution has established linkages with national and international organizations to strengthen its academic, research and outreach activities. As a pioneer institution of agricultural teaching, research and extension in Ethiopia, over the last 50 years, Haramaya University has developed and released several improved crop varieties and many improved crop and livestock management practices. The institution has produced many textbooks, book chapters, research articles, bulletins, proceedings, posters and a number of M.Sc. thesis research reports. However, the research and outreach activities of the university in fields other than agriculture are weak as most of the faculties are young and lack the necessary manpower and experience. There is an urgent need for the university to make efforts to link its academic programs to its research and outreach activities in order to make its training programs relevant to the needs of the stakeholders and the country at large. This requires the need to make proper linkages with various stakeholders that include the rural community, urban dwellers, the private sector, governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations at national and international levels.
Currently, Haramaya University is functioning on three campus premises in different regions; Haramaya Campus, Harar campus and Chiro Campus.