We investigated Yemen's higher education challenges by focusing on the English teacher education program. Interpretative analysis of policy statements and interviews revealed several factors that are hindering the quality of the program. Deeply aware of the socio-political dimensions impeding progress, the university lecturers shared convoluted visions for improving higher education and, in reflecting on the mission and realities of their program, voiced their quest for social justice and recognition by university administrators. The administrators acknowledged key problems in teacher education, but proposed no specific corrective measures. The findings highlight the urgent need for systemic change in Yemeni higher education. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.