The year 2000 saw the plan of setting up a dual-mode private higher education institution become a reality - St. Mary's University being a pioneer in the sector. In March of the same year, the Distance Education Division (DED) was launched focusing on Business and Law fields of study. Since 2001, the Division has been making a speedy growth targeting distance learners in the fields of Teacher Education - Amharic, English, Mathematics, Geography and History.
After a few years of concerted and coordinated effort, the began to show remarkable success. Consequently, in preparation for the September 2002 registration, the institution made stride by employing new staff members and renting a new building at Maichew Square, beside the Wabe Shebelle Hotel, where its head office is located at present.
By way of reorganizing itself, the spent the last quarter of 2002 restructuring previous offices as well as establishing new ones that provide the needed support and services both to the students and the staff. In 2003, the expanded its services and started offering Degree programs in Marketing, Management, Accounting, and Teacher Education diploma programs (in the fields of English, Mathematics, and Geography). A year later, the Computer Science Department, after being beefed up with manpower, facilities, and equipment, started offering Degree programs. In the same year, the also opened the Natural Science Stream (comprising the subjects Biology, Chemistry, and Physics), which offers diploma level training under the Teacher Education Faculty.
By August 2005, St. Mary's University had more than 15,000 students in the distance mode of learning and 5,000 in the regular and extension programs. After a lot of hard work and dedication, the was raised to the level of University in February 2006. In the same year, SMU, in collaboration with IGNOU – a leading distance education institution in India, started offering Masters Programs within St. Mary's University newly acquired campus. The program was introduced at a time when the wide gap between the demand for tertiary-level quality education and the supply side of the services called for such programs.
In 2009 IGNOU's office moved to a building secured for the School of Graduate Studies located off-Bole Road near to the Meskel Square. The Institute of Agricultural Studies is also housed in this building. At Midir Baboor campus, where the Teacher Education Faculty has its offices and a library, the Testing Center of the University operates its day to day activities. This center is entrusted with offering training to the entire academic staff on matters pertaining to measurement and evaluation. In addition, the center also prepares and administers exit exams for undergraduate degree program students and competence tests for the vocational ones.
The DED (now of Open and Distance Learning) today offers a total of 22 degree and vocational programs through its 154 coordinating centers, which are located throughout the country catering to the needs of close to 30.000 students. In the conventional mode of learning, it has eleven degree and vocational programs with student population of more than 6000.
St.Mary's University is a founding member of Ethiopian Private Higher Education Institutions Association and is a member of the African Association of Universities (www.aau.org).
With the human, financial and material resources it has created and developed over the past twelve years, the University continues to be poised for success in the years to come.