Afghanistan ministry of higher education

27 Feb 2015

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Strategic plan

                                            Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
                                          Ministry of Higher Education

                                  NATIONAL HIGHER EDUCATION 
                                      STRATEGIC PLAN: 2010 2014

Afghanistan, which years ago had one of the regions most respected and well recognized higher education systems, has been devastated by thirty years of war including foreign invasions, occupation and civil war.  The violence resulted in an estimated one million casualties and displaced approximately six million people,some of whom have not returned.  Many of these were faculty members and staff.  Some took university positions abroad and after years away found it difficult to return given their expanded families, new commitments, and economic conditions in Afghanistan. Professional development lagged for those who remained, buildings had been destroyed while others fell into a state of disrepair. Outdated curricula, under-qualified faculty members, lack of proper classrooms and laboratories, under resourced libraries and the lack of adequate information technology are among the acute and pressing problems faced by the higher education sector. As a consequence, there was very little research. Indeed, the research culture, at the core of a modern university, had been largely destroyed. Tertiary education in Afghanistan deteriorated dramatically starting in the 1990s when it had a student population of 24,333.  By 1995 the total number of students had fallen to 17,370, by 2001 it had dropped to 7,881 The enrollment rate in tertiary education was among the lowest in the world, in 1995 with less than 2 percent of the population over 25 years of age having any tertiary education.  
Immediate hurdles facing Afghanistan include: the destruction left by years of war; the high rate of unemployment; high poverty levels; inadequate health care; a lack of qualified teachers at every level; a shortage of education facilities; persistent gaps in demand and supply of science and technology trained manpower; a weak communications infrastructure; damaged and inadequate potable water, irrigation and flood control systems; a shortage of electricity in many areas; obsolete agriculture practices and technologies which contribute to undue pressure on the countrys limited arable land. Consequently Afghanistans development challenges are enormous and solutions will require strong visionary and innovative leadership, well-coordinated science and technology structures, and an effective human resource strategy. Therefore the development of a coordinated system of higher education institutions that will provide the high-level person power needs of the country lies at the heart of its national development strategy. There is consensus that improving the quality of the higher education system is central to the economic rejuvenation of Afghanistan.  Higher Education is one of the 8 pillars of the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS).  This Strategic Plan is linked to the ANDS and reflects the vision, goals, and objectives of the Ministry of Higher Education for the future.
A recent study has shown that despite the severe global recession the return on investment in higher education is very significant. It estimates that the real rate of return for university training is 15% and 20-40% for public university research in addition to its wider contribution to family and social affairs, culture and the environment. At a time when there are many competing pressures on government budgets, the study shows that investing in higher education is hugely budget-friendly providing one of the highest returns on investment. This is because, the wider economy is stimulated by skills innovation and hence is more productive with greater tax revenue and because graduates have higher incomes and pay higher taxes than non-graduates. The study concludes by advocating the allocation of more funds to higher education to improve the economy, a conclusion that would be very helpful in making the case for funding in any country. This and other studies make a compelling case in support of efforts of the Ministry of Higher Education in Afghanistan to leverage additional funds for its universities and higher education institutes both from government and the donor community.
For the last eight years the country has been working to reopen and rebuild its universities and institutes of higher education almost all of which were badly damaged by war in addition to major staff losses.  However, the capacities of current institutions continue to be limited and cannot meet the overwhelming demands for access from an increasing number of high school graduates. In 2009, some 62,000 students comprised the enrolment of the higher education sector. It is estimated that there will be 100,000 high school graduates by 2010 and 600,000 by 2014. How many of these could and should be accommodated in the higher education institutions of the country? What numbers and what kinds of institutions both public and private would be required and are affordable?
The Constitution of Afghanistan states that: Education is the right of all citizens of Afghanistan and goes on to note that it shall be offered up to the B.A. level in the state educational institutions free of charge by the state (Article 43).   The interpretation of this article has meant that the expectation of students is that no fees are to be charged for public undergraduate university education.  Other rules and procedures limit the ability of public institutions to carry out entrepreneurial activities which would enhance their income or to set up foundations for contributions from alumni, businesses, or donors.  The total budget allocated to the 22 universities in 2009 was $35 million, averaging about $1.5 million per institution. No university can provide quality higher education with such limited resource provisions. It is thus incumbent on the Afghan Government to provide an appropriate legal framework to allow higher education to access new sources of funding.  While recognizing the many financial demands on the Government for national security, public health, roads, primary and secondary schools, and other services, higher education will need additional funding. Although Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world with its per capita income in the bottom eight,  it will need additional assistance from Government if it is to meet national development goals. However, since higher education has both public and private benefits, it is reasonable to expect that its costs in the future will be covered from multiple sources including private funding, tuition fees, entrepreneurial activities, donors, and other sources. Poorer students need to be assisted through scholarships and bursaries.During the last eight years following the election of a democratic government, much progress has been made in rehabilitating the higher education system including upgrading infrastructure, improving information and communications technology (ICT), development of several Masters programs, faculty development, and increased access at the rate of a 15% increase a year brought higher education enrollments in 2009 to 62,000 students of which 21% were in contrast to no women at the end of the Taliban period.  Seven more faculties have been added to public tertiary institutions in the last two years and twenty private institutions have opened since they were legalized in 2003.  At the same time, much remains to be done. At the center of this process is the formulation of a Strategic Plan at the level of the Ministry of Higher Education that will guide development of the system, set goals and priorities, outline its core business, establish an action plan and time-line and provide valuable information on the sector as a whole. The process began in 2003 at the Ministry of Higher Education and has continued since then including efforts in 2005, initiated by UNESCO-IIEP (International Institute of Education Planning). Since then the plan has been refined and several versions have emerged. Each of these has merit.  This final version reflects the vision, goals, and intentions of the MOHE, as well the universities and other tertiary institutions and will be the pivotal guiding light as the sector is transformed from its present status into a modern, vibrant one that produces the high level person power to meet the socio-economic needs of a developing nation. The current plan builds on the solid foundation which has been developed during these years.
A high quality public and private higher education system that responds to Afghanistans growth and development needs, improves public well-being, respects traditions, incorporates modern scientific knowledge, is well managed, and internationally recognized.
To facilitate equitable access to higher education to all who are academically qualified, establish innovative institutions that provide high quality teaching, research, and service; produce graduates who are competitive in a global economy; contribute to economic growth, social development, nation building, and the stability of the country.
High Quality Tertiary Education
Promote National Unity
Ethics & Integrity
Good Governance, Effectiveness & Efficiency
Institutional Autonomy
Public Accountability
High Quality Tertiary Education
National development in Afghanistan is dependent on the success of efforts to transform higher education into an effective high quality system. Indeed, no nation moves into the realm of developing economies without a high quality higher education system.   The key to economic development is the quality of the higher education system, rather than its size, graduation rates, or enrollments.  
The MoHE has set a number of goals designed to improve the quality of higher education including curriculum development, a merit-based recruitment and promotion system, policies designed to increase research and publications, improvement of facilities (e.g. libraries, ICT, Internet access), development of graduate programs, foreign language instruction (especially English), quality improvement and accreditation. Quality improvement also requires improved student services, advising, health, and placement as well as enhanced capacity to insure the integrity, transparency, and independence of the national entrance examination.
Quality improvement must include private higher education institutions which complement public higher education and will be held to the same standard as public institutions.  At the same time the MoHE has tightened its rules about the use of the term university and limits its use (and that of other higher education terminology) only to those institutions which are approved to have that status.
Promote National Unity
A key condition of national unity is the development of a high quality tertiary system including both public and private institutions. Part of that process includes improvement of the infrastructure of higher education. Among the goals of the MoHE are the expansion, development and upgrading of institutional libraries, laboratories, ICT, information data bases, and access to high speed Internet. Early efforts to these ends included expansion of teaching laboratories in engineering and improved Internet access. While the Government has expanded the number of public tertiary institutions to twenty-two most of them need infrastructure augmentation to provide the quality education that will foster development and the creation of a knowledge economy in Afghanistan. 
Transforming the higher education system goes hand in hand with the MoHEs commitment to a wide range of values associated with promoting national unity. On the one hand, that involves recognizing national diversity and on the other building tolerance, respect for differences and most importantly building a united, modern democratic Afghanistan which has the loyalty of all Afghans while preserving the uniqueness of Afghanistan, its history and culture.
Ethics and Integrity
As educationists, the ministry and universities must uphold the values of ethics, integrity and trust, act as role models for students and make every effort to inculcate them into young emerging leaders, intellectuals and students. Higher education teaching, research, and service are about the search for truth, problem solving, and unraveling complex problems and challenges that affect peoples lives and well-being.  Without high ethical standards and integrity, such efforts are meaningless.  Ultimately these qualities together with skills and knowledge will shape the character of students as critical citizens contributing to sustainable development and a modern democratic Afghanistan.
Given the inherent inequalities that exist in any society including Afghanistan, the Ministry has to ensure equal and fair opportunities for all those who are eligible to enter the higher education system. In particular, emphasis will be placed on poor students with potential, the physically challenged, rural people, gender equity, and others who have been particularly disadvantaged in the past. Special attention needs to be given to increasing the number of women students and women in higher education teaching positions, especially at the senior level where currently only two women hold ranks as high as associate professors and only one half of one percent (0.5%) of women have professional ranks.   The MoHE will critically examine the existing inequalities and devise strategies for overcoming past disadvantages. This may include, among other measures, corrective action (affirmative action) and measures of empowerment such as remedial tuition, financial aid and counseling services. Each institution should develop its own equity policy and provide annual reports to this effect. The Ministry of Higher Education will monitor progress and provide institutions with a forum to discuss progress, challenges, constraints and share best practice.
Good Governance, Effectiveness and Efficiency
The principles of effectiveness and efficiency are related but distinct. An effective higher education system or institution works in a manner that leads to achieving its goals and objectives. An efficient system or institution functions correctly, making optimal use of available resources without duplication or waste. A higher education system that will serve Afghanistan in achieving its socio-economic development must be both effective and efficient.
Good governance is a key to effectiveness and efficiency.  The creation of high quality institutions necessitates improved human resource management, from initial efforts at staff recruitment to the administration of research and other funding.  Modern higher education institutions must be flexible, innovative, and responsive.  This requires greater decentralization of authority from the MoHE to the institutions in academic and financial matters. The MoHE is revising faculty policies and procedures, research and publications rules and expectations, and human resource management. 
Institutional Autonomy
The principle of institutional autonomy implies that higher education institutions can expend and raise resources, admit students, hire staff and faculty, design their own curricula, undertake research of their own choosing, and publish and disseminate the results of research without outside interference. The notion of academic freedom refers to purely the academic aspects of the enterprise. This long established tradition and principle is on the one hand a cornerstone of democratic practice and on the other a precondition for the optimum functioning of universities and other tertiary institutions.
Public Accountability
While the principles of autonomy and academic freedom are highly valued they can and should only be exercised within the ambit of public accountability. Universities have always relied on their peers for the validation of their research results and publications. Of late universities are accountable to the state, the employers and the students for the quality of their output of graduates. The state, through the Ministry of Higher Education, which is the principle funder of universities, rightfully expects higher education institutions to be accountable to it in the way they expend resources, raise funds and lead and manage the institutions. In parallel, the MoHE will try to expand the financial autonomy of universities.  It is essential to guard the integrity of the institutions and to protect the systems academic freedom and institutional autonomy.
The Goals of the Higher Education Sector:
At the National System Level
To lead and manage a diversified and coordinated system of higher education comprised of public and private universities, institutes and colleges.
To meet the learning needs and aspirations of individuals through the development of their intellectual abilities throughout their lives.
To address the development needs of the society and provide the labor market in a knowledge driven and knowledge dependent society, with the changing high level competencies and expertise necessary for the growth and prosperity of a modern economy.  To that end, the MoHE proposes to work on a national needs assessment.
To improve the quality of higher education institutions with international standards as long-term benchmarks.
To expand access by developing a flexible higher education system consistent with high
quality.  Taking into account the law, this might include open and distance education, shift classes, as well as evening and summer programs.
To establish an accreditation and quality assurance system to ensure institutional and program quality, national and regional relevance, as well as international mobility and recognition.
To provide and enhance research capacity for the advancement of knowledge and for the application of research activities to technological improvement and social development.
To provide funding in a sustainable and equitable manner to ensure quality higher education through the principle of shared costs.  To that end the MoHE seeks to insure that policy changes make it possible for public higher education institutions to be entrepreneurial, establish foundations, and seek funding from a wide range of entities including the state, businesses, students where appropriate, donors, product development, and other sources.
To incorporate the principle of autonomy in order that institutions may raise and expend resources and manage the academic enterprise as they deem appropriate.  This autonomy is exercised within the ambit of public accountability to the state, students and other stakeholders.
To fill the growing gap covered by community colleges in many parts of the world by developing a community college program for specialized post-secondary education including: short courses in areas such as science, math, languages, and computer science; mid-level training in business, professions such as law, pharmacy, medicine, and computer science; opportunities for those who need introductory university level courses (which might lead to an Associates of Arts degree); opportunities for life-long learning; and, highly technical training geared to specific industries or businesses.  Course credits would be transferable to universities.
To develop a credit system for Afghanistan, following the revision of the higher education curriculum (now underway), which would facilitate transfers between tertiary institutions, allow students to work and accumulate credits over a number of years, and to rationalize and improve the comparability of courses across higher education institutions.
At the Institutional Level
To modernize and transform the institution so that the roles of management, faculty and staff are clearly delineated and its governance structures function cooperatively and harmoniously.
To provide relevant and quality academic programs that are responsive to national and regional needs and are globally competitive.
To develop a clear system of academic promotions and rewards based on merit and peer review including evaluation of teaching, research, and service.
To establish an academic climate where open debate, critical inquiry and constructive critique are the prevailing norm of institutions.
To contribute to the creation of enlightened, responsible and constructively critical citizens with a reflective capacity to review prevailing ideas based on the commitment to the common good, tolerance and respect.
To improve the quality of learning and teaching and to ensure that curricula are responsive to the national and regional context.
To develop its faculty and staff through further degrees, short courses, exchange visits and the creation of a culture of continuous learning.
To create a research culture in the nations universities to undertake meaningful and relevant research to contribute to an understanding and solution of the myriad problems and challenges facing the country.
To develop Masters and PhD programs at its comprehensive research universities as the number of qualified faculty members (with appropriate degrees and training) allows or qualified foreign faculty can be recruited.  In this regard, the MoHE envision no more than five or six universities offering graduate training in the long run.
To establish partnerships with other higher education institutions in the country, region and internationally.
To be socially responsible by interacting with and making the professional expertise and infrastructure of institutions available to communities and the nation.
In keeping with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) Higher Education envisages two broad programs within the ambit of its activity. A program is defined as a related set of activities with objectives, targets, an implementation strategy, financial, human and physical resources, indicators and a monitoring and evaluation framework.
Program I
Educate and train skilled graduates to meet the socio-economic development needs of Afghanistan; enhance teaching, research and learning; and encourage service to the community and nation.
Program II
Lead and manage a coordinated system of higher education comprising universities, institutes and community colleges dedicated to providing high quality tertiary education.
Program I
Educate and train skilled graduates to meet the socio-economic development needs of Afghanistan; enhance teaching, research and learning; and encourage service to the community and the nation.
Sub-Program  I-1
Professional Faculty/Staff Development
The faculty of Afghan Universities has been considerably weakened by the ongoing sequence of conflicts that has devastated the country for over thirty years and staff has had little opportunity for development. Thus, one of the most critical challenges faced by the higher education system and universities is to renew and revitalize their faculty and staff. This can be achieved through a variety of steps:
Postgraduate degrees: The qualification status of the 2526 faculty in 2008 was as follows 5.5% with PhDs; 30.7% with MAs/MSc and 63.8% with BAs (see table 3). Clearly the target is to equip the vast majority of staff with an MA/MSc or PhD within as short a period as possible. However the constraints in achieving this objective should not be underestimated. Both facilities and faculty to provide these qualifications within Afghan universities and institutes are currently very limited. In the initial period, perhaps for the next five years, postgraduate training will be confined to the larger and better established universities. Even at these institutions such training will be limited to defined discipline areas where expertise exists. This strategy will be complemented by sending carefully chosen faculty to international universities (through scholarships provided by host governments and other sources). To broaden higher education experience at the Masters and PhD level, sandwich programs which involve partnerships with outstanding foreign universities that include study in that university abroad for 2-3 months, will be considered. They would be anchored in the major comprehensive research universities in Afghanistan which would provide the degree itself or do so jointly with the foreign counterpart. Additional partnerships and cooperative programs will be encouraged with universities abroad to facilitate graduate training in Afghanistan at the Masters and PhD levels using foreign faculty members. Local partnerships will also be encouraged.  The long-term goal will be to be able to produce locally the vast majority of Masters and PhD graduates needed for higher education in Afghanistan.
Teaching and Learning:  The MoHE will offer short courses for faculty members that focus on pedagogy and teaching methods as a way to improve the quality of teaching and learning.  Some institutions, including Harvard University, require such a course for all new faculty members.  Institutions will be encouraged to focus on improving the quality of teaching
Life-long learning is now an established fact of educational development in all fields. To this end short, well designed professional courses from a days workshop to several weeks duration, held during the summer breaks or on weekends will be provided. Such courses could have several components lectures, intensive group discussions and field visits depending on the discipline involved. Existing university facilities and faculty should be at the forefront of such provision. This could be supplemented by utilizing visiting faculty, video conferencing and adjunct faculty from business, commerce and industry. Faculty development activity should be considered as part of normal promotion reviews.
Exchange visits: Exchange visits of the type sponsored by the Fulbright Fellowships should be put in place. This will enable selected faculty to make short visits to international universities to upgrade their skills and where appropriate to undertake research projects. Similarly international faculty should be invited to make brief visits to universities in Afghanistan with the intention of lecturing, upgrading staff skills and undertaking research. Sponsorship should be sought from foundations, host governments, business and industry and other sources.  Scholarship programs and grants that will bring outstanding faculty members to Afghanistan to help with Masters and PhD programs should be encouraged as an economical way to quickly expand these programs in Afghanistan allowing greater access to graduate training at a cost many times lower than sending students abroad.  Additional graduate programs should be developed as soon as adequate numbers of Masters and PhD faculty are available.
Incentives: In order to encourage quality teaching, incentives will be provided. Initially the MoHE will honor a small number of faculty members for outstanding teaching and research.  A panel will be set up to receive nominations from universities and institutes of outstanding teachers and research scholars.  The MoHE will award cash prizes to the five outstanding teachers and five outstanding researchers each year. The faculty member nominated will be expected to demonstrate outstanding teaching through production of a teaching portfolio which might include student and faculty evaluations of his or her teaching or other illustrations of teaching excellence. In a similar vein the committee will make five awards for research excellence based on nominations from tertiary institutions with evidence of the cutting edge quality of the research and the importance of its contributions.
Appointment and promotion of staff and faculty should be based on clearly defined criteria through a transparent process and with merit as the overwhelming criterion. The number of senior faculty members is too small (see table 4) and many faculty members have not been reviewed regularly for promotions.  The MoHE will encourage regular review of faculty members to insure that merit is rewarded and to make it clear that there is a promising future for both new and existing faculty members who are creative and productive. The MoHE will develop an affirmative action plan to insure an increase in women faculty and staff members by the end of the plan period. Existing faculty and staff should have new faculty and staff development opportunities (described in section I-1 of this strategic plan) to upgrade their status.  Severe sanctions will be leveled against any evidence of fraud in research, publications, or statement of qualifications. Salaries of academic staff and support staff are very low by any standard. Early consideration will be given to improving salary levels to attract and retain well qualified and dedicated staff in higher education.  Competition from overseas institutions, NGOs, and the corporate sector is a challenge for the retention of staff which must be met.
While the focus of the above activities has been faculty members, development training for other staff will not be neglected. Strategies to improve leadership, management and administration will be an integral part of staff development. This could be in the form of short courses, exchange visits and in exceptional cases further qualifications in the areas of financial and human resource management, IT skills, laboratory technicians, librarianship etc.  It will also be important to focus on human resource development especially for administrators and support staff.  Effective teaching and research require bright, well-trained technicians and support staff in our laboratories, libraries, computer centers, and throughout our institutions. 
The question of retirement is a sensitive issue but has to be dealt with in a professional manner. It is generally accepted that staff and faculty of universities are expected to retire at the age of 65 years. This is essential in order that younger staff is provided with opportunities for advancement and new ideas are brought into the academy.  However, should it be necessary, the retirees expertise could still be utilized, through contract appointments for defined periods. In addition outstanding faculty can be appointed as Emeritus Professors. This is not a regular salaried position but provides some remuneration and confers certain privileges such as the provision of office space, and research facilities. The policy of the Ministry of Higher Education on retirement will be reviewed and clearly and explicitly defined so that it leaves no doubt in the minds of staff and faculty.
For the last several years the MoHE has been working to revise and improve rules and regulations about hiring, promotion, duties, and responsibilities of faculty, enhance academic programs, and facilitate quality.  These changes will require a variety of different types of legislative and executive approval.
Sub-Program I-2
Curriculum and Materials Revision and Development
A National Needs Assessment involving both the public and private sectors with an emphasis on science and technology and special needs is an urgent priority before a consideration of detailed curriculum reform. This assessment will coordinate with the private sector on needs and market, labor, industry, technical and professional demands as well as with the Ministries of Education and Labor.
A broad agreed framework for curriculum reform will be formulated. This will include among others the number of years for bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees via the mechanism of credit hours. This might be embedded within a qualifications framework when completed. Consideration will be given to structuring the curriculum through compulsory and optional modules and an outline of the main areas to be covered. This will provide adequate flexibility for universities to introduce their own particular emphasis in curriculum reform. In restructuring the curriculum international benchmarks will be balanced with regional and national needs.  In the long run curriculum reform will be linked to a national qualifications framework and national skills development program.
A higher education needs assessment will very likely result in the necessity for the introduction of new disciplines as well as cross and multi-disciplinary studies. Among them could be the following business studies, leadership and educational management, environmental engineering, peaceful approaches to conflict resolution, ethics, etc. The introduction of new courses should be carefully and incrementally introduced so that quality at all times is the over-riding concern. Availability of facilities and qualified faculty would be major determinants in their introduction.
Traditional and current methods of pedagogy, which tends to be lecturer driven will be reviewed. More emphasis should be given to problem solving, discussions between faculty members and students, written assignments for students, and student research starting at the undergraduate level.  Modern pedagogy, new theories and principles of teaching, utilizing the state of the art technology as a support mechanism should be introduced. Short courses on how to improve teaching methodology should be provided. This might be complemented by the sharing of best practice and an annual conference where teaching as a dedicated subject would be discussed. Research into improved teaching methods will be encouraged. Excellence in teaching should be a prime motivation for promotion.
Closely related to teaching are the methods used in assessment and examination of students. What are the best methods short questions, essay type questions or multiple-choice questions or a combination of these? Are the methods used fair and objective? Is there preference for summative evaluation as opposed to continuous assessment? Once examination papers are formulated, are they secure and beyond leakage? Are external examiners used and if they are used how are they selected and deployed? None of these questions have easy tailor made answers. The important issue is that the faculty has to continually interrogate the art of teaching in order to improve and transform it. Once the quality assurance system is under way, evaluation of teaching and examinations will be a major part of its requirements.
Proficiency in English, as the global language of communication and also the language of the Internet, is becoming increasingly important to the growth and development of higher education in Afghanistan. Introduction of English as a foreign language should begin in early primary school level as a core subject. Higher education institutions are encouraged to provide students with opportunities to study English in the first year and continue throughout their course of study if they do not already know it. Modern technology is an invaluable tool to facilitate language learning.  Instruction in other major international languages such as Chinese, French, German, and Japanese will also be encouraged.
Funds will be made available to encourage the writing and publication of textbooks in Dari and Pashtu, especially in priority areas, to improve the quality of teaching and learning and give students access to state-of-the-art information.  In the meantime, translation of English language textbooks and journals into Dari and Pashtu is a major challenge for curriculum reform. Without this facility it would not be possible for university students and faculty to access modern developments as knowledge in all disciplines accumulates at a rapid and exponential pace. In particular this is a huge obstacle for establishing a research culture. The Ministry of Higher Education together with the universities will examine strategies to overcome this deficit. One approach is to mobilize Afghan scholars who are now working abroad to be engaged in this activity. The attractive part for them is that they need not travel to Afghanistan and can undertake the translation from wherever they are located. By providing a modest stipend, the books and journals that need translation once defined could be undertaken quite rapidly. There are also many scholars within the current universities in the country who have the capacity to undertake translations.   In addition, with approval, text translations can be included as part of the work of a faculty member being considered for promotion.
Student learning should be complemented with professional practice in the private sector, industry or other area of future employment. For such learning to be effective, it has to be adequately organized and supervised with inputs both from the university and the external agency. Monitoring and evaluation of worked based learning is an important instrument for quality control.
In order to inculcate a sense of social responsibility among students, consideration will be given for each student to complete a community based project prior to graduation. This could be credit bearing and be associated with students major discipline of study. This could be achieved with students working either singly, in pairs or in group based learning. Inputs from communities, university and students will be essential in designing such projects.
Sub-Program I-3
Infrastructure and Teaching and Learning Facilities
Existing structures including class rooms, laboratories, offices, libraries in order to make them functional and environmentally friendly must be renovated.
Planning for the construction of new facilities is an urgent priority for the Ministry of Higher Education. A formula will have to be devised to adequately and equitably provide the optimum space requirements for each university or institute. This should be based among other factors on student numbers, teaching requirements (e.g. labs, need for practice facilities, demonstration farms), graduate facilities, libraries and IT facilities. In this regard the establishment of new universities will be halted so that limited resources are not unduly stretched and can be more efficiently allocated.
The housing of students in dormitories is both an expensive and contentious issue. The Universities must make every effort to reduce expenditure on non-academic services and programs. In order to be fair to non-resident students, a fee might be levied for such housing with provision for fellowships or loans for low income students. Existing and new residences should meet adequate standards so that students are comfortably housed with the necessary study and recreational facilities as well as some designed for physically challenged students. Privatization of residences with a partial subsidy from universities will be considered.  In order to increase opportunities for women students, women will have priority in university housing with facilities providing adequate security for their well-being.
Recreational facilities for students and faculty cafeterias, lounges, sports facilities should be provided.  Adequate facilities for student services, such as advising and placement, should also be included.
The grounds of campuses should be secured, planted with shrubs, trees and flowers that are appropriate for Afghanistans climatic conditions and are not unduly water draining and made suitable for staff and students to use during their break periods.
Sub-Program I-4
Research and Graduate Instruction
At the present time research output in the Afghan higher education system is low and the quality is mixed. The production, advancement, preservation and dissemination of knowledge are among the core functions of universities. Research enhances teaching and is an integral part of postgraduate education and training.
The modern research enterprise has undergone radical change and it is today located not only in universities but also in industrial laboratories, private independent research units, research councils and in non-governmental organizations. In addition, current research can be distinctly categorized into a number of prototypes basic or fundamental research, applied research, artistic research, synthesis of existing knowledge and research, community and strategic research.  Approved translations of essential teaching material should continue to be counted in the judgment of faculty research output.
Afghanistan faces an array of critical challenges to develop and move along a trajectory that will lead to sustainable development, overcome poverty and offer a better life for all its citizens. Among these challenges are: to restore high quality to its universities including bringing the level of Masters to 60 percent in five years and PhD faculty members to at least 20 percent of the teaching and research staff; help bring security to the nation; foster sustainable development; enhance democratic government with a culture of tolerance and respect for its diversity. The resolution of each of these challenges will be complex, time consuming and demanding of resources. Research, particularly applications driven relevant research can make a meaningful contribution in this regard.
Although both resources and qualified faculty are currently limited, the strategic plan embodies a research plan that will, in the near future, establish a research culture, train faculty and provide the necessary infrastructure for research development within the Afghan higher education system. The 140 faculty currently with PhDs and some of the 775 faculty with Masters degrees are capable of initiating more research than is underway at present. Part of the current problem is that no funding is currently allocated by Government for research.  Thus in the first year of this plan, funding  and incentives will be made available competitively through the MoHE for faculty research with preference given to applied research projects relevant to the countrys needs.  Institutions should also consider setting up a unit for research administration to make faculty members aware of grants available nationally and internationally from funders, assist with grant proposals, and help faculty members prepare budgets for proposals.
Resources for research will always be in scarce supply and thus resources will focus on research where capacity exists. We expect the comprehensive research universities, which will not exceed 5-6 universities, to take the lead in research. Nonetheless, access to research funding will be open to all faculty members on a competitive basis based on the merit and relevance of their proposals.  All faculty members will be expected to carry out research for promotions, as well as good teaching and service, which at minimum includes keeping up with their academic fields and producing synthesis articles in their academic area or high quality instructional material. All universities should aspire to be high quality undergraduate universities and institutes, turning out employable graduates for the countrys economy and services and providing service to their communities and the nation.
Building partnerships is indispensable for developing the research enterprise. Existing partnerships should be revitalized and new ones sought with local industry, with regional and international universities and research institutes. The Ministry of Higher Education willprovide the leadership and facilitate the development of these partnerships.
Graduate Training
Given the limited number of PhD faculty members, the expansion of graduate training at the Masters level, and the addition of PhD programs, will have to be done gradually and only as adequate numbers of Masters and PhD faculty members are available to be graduate teachers, mentors, and thesis advisors. Quality graduate programs go hand in hand with quality research. In the short run, the focus will be on establishing additional high quality programs at the Masters level, especially in the physical and natural sciences, technology, business and social sciences. That will need to be conditional on having a sufficient number of Masters and PhD faculty members available who are also active in research.  It will not be possible to produce the top quality graduate students needed until the research culture on the campuses of comprehensive research universities is well established and the institutions appropriately staffed.  To this end, the MoHE will make every effort to send more faculty members abroad for Masters and PhD training, while recognizing that this is not sustainable in the long run at a current average cost of about $200,000 per PhD student.  In that regard, the MoHE will work to develop special relationships with outstanding institutions abroad (such as those South Africa provides to its Southern African Development Community or SADC partners) that reduce the total cost as much as tenfold.
Science & Technology Development
Research policy and practice in the higher education sector should both integrate and focus on science and technology as a cornerstone of development. Students should be encouraged to focus on the essential math and science courses in secondary school so that they have a solid preparation for advanced work in tertiary education.  Long term development will need to be more technologically driven. Higher education should work more closely with the private sector to strategically harness the benefits of technological developments.  In addition, quantitative social sciences should be enhanced in the nations universities to facilitate the detailed comprehensive policy analysis that is so essential to effective development (See Appendix IV).
Program II
Lead and manage a coordinated system of higher education comprising universities, institutes and community colleges dedicated to providing high quality tertiary education.
Sub-Program II-1
Ministry of Higher Education
In many countries higher education is part of the Ministry of Education, which covers all aspects of education. Afghanistan is fortunate to have a dedicated Ministry of Higher Education with a Minister at the Head who is assisted by Deputy Ministers, Directors and the appropriate line managers and staff. Once the Strategic Plan is adopted, the Ministry will restructure accordingly. For example, a line manager might be appointed for each of the two Programs and staff appointed to manage each of the sub-programs. All would ultimately be accountable to the Deputy Ministers and Minister. It is important that the senior Managers in particular should have academic qualifications and understand the functioning of universities and institutes. In this regard continuous training for Ministry staff through short courses and exchange visits to well established ministries and universities will be very helpful.
In contrast to management which is concerned with the present, with delivery, targets, efficiency, utilization, authority, leaders are oriented to tomorrow, to development, to direction, to purpose and vision and to innovation. They focus on external issues, facilitation, empowerment, doing the right thing; increase urgency, build a guiding team and make change enduring.  The leader should be a conceptualist with an entrepreneurial vision, with the time for reflection and contemplating the future; how internal and external forces are likely to shape the ministry/institution. Thus the Ministry of Higher Education, working with its counterparts in the Ministries of Education, Public Health and Labor, has a crucial leadership role in providing the vision, direction and place of higher education within the broad development trajectory of Afghanistan, the region, and its place in the world.
Control or Coordination and Steering
The modern tendency in the relations between the Ministries of Higher Education and universities is to move away from one of control to one of coordination and steering as well as decentralization of academic and financial affairs. This is in keeping with the notion of institutional autonomy and the findings that higher education quality and creativity are increased where institutions have the autonomy, flexibility, communication systems, and incentives to be innovative and responsive to opportunities in a rapidly changing environment.   The Ministry and universities have clearly delineated sets of functions and roles. Their interrelationship is such that exercising their respective roles, results in a harmonious and coherent functioning higher education system, which can be characterized by an outcome of cooperative governance. In broad terms the Ministry is involved in oversight while universities are responsible for academic affairs including teaching, research, and service. As the rest of the sub-programs are articulated the respective functions of the Ministry and universities will become clear and well delineated.
The MoHE will use this process to undertake a major restructuring of the Ministry, to rationalize and reorganize the education bureaucracy to make it leaner, more efficient and responsive.  The MoHE will focus considerable attention on human resource development of the administrative, coordination, and service staff working with higher education institutions to improve their technical competencies, HR skills, and to cultivate a culture of service.  The MoHE has established a gender unit in its organization structure to encourage gender mainstreaming. The MoHE will also add a research division to its structure to encourage, facilitate, and foster research in higher education, especially at its comprehensive research universities.  The MoHE is committed to combining teaching and research in higher education as the best method of fostering high quality teaching and excellence in research. The MoHE will work with other Ministries and donors on a sector approach to development.
A Board of Trustees or Council  usually mediates the relations between the Ministry and the University. Such Boards or Councils oversee the broad operations of the University, appoint its President or Chancellor and importantly ensure integrity and probity in its financial management.  It is an independent body with a mixed composition but usually with more external than university members. Typically the composition will include several appointees by the Minister of Higher Education. Other members will be from the commercial, industrial and labor sectors; professional organizations; local and regional governments. The university is represented by the President/Chancellor; Vice Presidents/Vice Chancellors and representatives of senate, staff and students. The total membership could vary anywhere from 10 30. Importantly members are chosen for their knowledge of university matters and are prominent and respected individuals of society. Although they may be elected by certain sectors or constituencies, they sit in the Council or Board in their individual capacities and put the interests of the university above all. Since this type of governance is new to Afghanistan where there has been no tradition of such intermediary bodies, the process will begin with a few Boards on a pilot basis as advisory bodies initially. Thereafter with experience and lessons learned, they can be given additional responsibilities before becoming fully fledged Boards overseeing the university.
Donor Coordination
In order to insure coherence of donor projects and MoHE goals, donor coordination will be encouraged and facilitated.  Lack of donor coordination has caused a great deal of duplication over the last decade.  In a context in which resources are far too scare it is important to limit or eliminate such problems.  The MoHE strategic plan includes recommendations for effective donor coordination including meeting with donors and senior MoHE officials on a quarterly basis chaired by the Minister or Deputy Minister Academic Affairs.  Such meetings should include reports by each donor agency on their current higher education projects, those approved for the future, and areas in which they are sending RFPs or exploring new opportunities.  We believe it is important to have an active exchange not only between the Ministry and each individual funder, but between funders and the Ministry on a regular basis.
Other Organizations:
Over time the creation of other bodies: a University Chancellors Association, a Faculty/Staff Association, a Students Association, all have the potential of improving the dialogue, understanding and playing a constructive role in the development of the higher education sector for Afghanistan.
The notion of university autonomy goes back to the Middle Ages, while guaranteeing it in principle by consent developed in the 19th century. Four freedoms are traditionally recognized as constituting the essence of academic freedom viz., who may teach; what may be taught; how it shall be taught; who may be admitted to study. The differences as well as the inter-connectedness between academic freedom, institutional autonomy and accountability should be delineated:
Academic freedom is an internationally recognized and unambiguous privilege of university teachers and includes admission of students, appointment of staff, undertaking and publishing the results of research without interference, and control of academic programs.
To be autonomous, a university must be free to select its students in the long run and its staff and to determine the conditions under which they remain in the university.  It must be free to set its own standards and to decide to whom to award its degrees and it must be free to design its own curriculum.  Having received income from state or private sources, it must be free to decide how to allocate that income among the different categories of expenditure.
The fundamental questions with respect to accountability are: who is to be held accountable; for what purpose; to whom; through what means; with what consequences?
Academic and financial autonomy of universities is essential to the development of knowledge and innovations in higher education giving institutions and their faculty the freedom to be creative, original, and productive. 
Both the academic freedom of the individual and the autonomy of the institution are inevitability limited by the demands of accountability; that is to demonstrate responsible actions to one or more constituencies. The individual academic has been accountable to the community of scholars for the quality of research work. The institution has been accountable to its financial sponsors for how and how well, subsidies or other forms of funding are spent. The accounting of public money goes to the heart of democratic principles. Accountability is also a constraint on the use of arbitrary power and the corruption of power.
In the final analysis, the relationship between University and Government cannot operate without a good deal of trust. The claim to independence from outside scrutiny must be contingent on a high level of scrutiny. Freedom can only be enduring if it can be combined with responsibility so too for academic freedom. The degree of higher education autonomy existing under the present law will be clarified and the MoHE will seek modifications where it limits institutional entrepreneurship and creativity. It is hoped that an amendment before Parliament granting higher education a measure of financial autonomy will be quickly ratified. This would provide both the legal means as well as incentives for the institutions to raise funds and expend them to improve teaching and learning as well as research.
The principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy are important to the development of quality higher education and will be introduced gradually and incrementally. The law before Parliament granting a measure of financial autonomy would be an appropriate first step. In addition institutions vary considerably in age, size and complexity.  A greater measure of academic freedom and institutional autonomy might initially be granted to the larger, well established institutions at the outset.
Sub-Program II-2
Access, Expansion and Structure of the Higher Education System
Currently Afghanistan has 22 universities and institutes of higher education with a total student enrollment in 2008 of 62,000 students. This averages out at 2818 students per university, which is very small in size by international comparison ranging from more than 10,000 students to fewer than 1000 students. For a university to be cost effective and have the capacity to offer quality programs it has to be of an optimum size with a critical mass of qualified faculty and the necessary infra-structure such as IT facilities, libraries and laboratories. Although there is no mathematical figure for this determination, there can be little doubt, that institutions with fewer than a 1000 students would be unable to meet these criteria.  Thus the MoHE will work with these institutions to expand their quality and capacity to a more optimal size.  The MoHE is setting a goal of 30% women students in higher education by the end of the plan period. The target enrollment for public higher education at the end of the strategic plan period (2014) is 115,000 students basically doubling enrollment in five years.
Due to the shortage of both human and financial resources and the need to guarantee minimal levels of quality, the MoHE has no choice but to avoid setting up new universities so that it can focus its scarce resources on the expansion of its universities and institutes to a reasonable size and provide them with an adequate infrastructure. The possibility of converting some of the smaller universities into community colleges might be explored. For Afghanistan to attain globally competitive status and produce quality graduates, a variety of tertiary institutions offering different types of high quality education is essential. The objective is to have a limited number of sizeable quality institutions employing a variety of strategies to provide post-secondary education, some of which would offer professional training for those high school graduates not accommodated by universities. To avoid confusion about the mission of institutions, the MoHE will employ stringent standards about the use of the name university to ensure that requirements are in accord with international expectations.  The MoHE regards the distinctions between universities, institutes of higher education, and community colleges as a division of labor, not a hierarchy. Each have their distinctive mission and function essential to the effective development of Afghanistan.  All will be subject to the same accreditation requirements and standards.
In this context, the MoHE is considering changes in the Kankor examination to insure that people in the arts (e.g. including fine arts, literature, drama, and cinema), and other disciplines which might be adversely affected, are not excluded from a university education because of low scores in math and science.  This may require a separate section focusing on the arts or differential weighing of scores in math and science for admission to the arts.  The MoHE has established a committee to review this problem with the intention of insuring that outstanding potential students in the arts and other areas are not excluded from higher education as an unintended consequence of the structure of the Kankor examination.
It is also essential to build diversity into the university structure compatible with efficiency and effectiveness. Therefore the system will include comprehensive research universities, predominantly undergraduate universities, community colleges, and higher education institutes.
Approximately 90,000 students applied for the Kankor examination in 2008/9..  National manpower needs will call for a wide range of education options for these graduates depending on their skills, aspirations, and qualifications. Some will go into technical and vocation education, some into teacher education institutes, others into higher education, some will seek employment.  At the present time about 20,000 students enter higher education each year.  The MoHE plans to expand university and institute enrollments from the current approximately 62,000 students to 110,000 students by 2014, the end of the plan period.  Added to that will be approximately 5,000 students in community colleges for a total enrollment of 115,000 (see table 5).  That will require an addition of almost 2000 faculty members (see table 6) and more than 800 new staff.  Expansion of university and institute facilities as well as more efficient use of space will allow admissions to increase from the current 20,000 per year to 36,000 per year by 2014 and when community college enrollments are added the number will almost double to 38,500 per year in 2014. 
The expansion of higher education places will be accomplished in several ways including the following:
Shift classes decisions have to be made about the size of the shift classes enrollment so that faculty, staff and infra-structure resources are not stretched to the point of compromising the quality of higher education; extending operational hours,  and adapting the university calendar which traditionally has about three months of an annual vacation period will be explored.  With appropriate management this can be done while protecting the faculty and at the same time university facilities are used more efficiently, working students given opportunities for further education they would not otherwise have, and faculty members who prefer to work in the evenings or flexible hours have the opportunity to do so.
Morning/evening classes classes conducted in the early morning and evenings could provide higher education to many students especially to adults and working students.
Community Colleges: To meet the development needs of the nation for tertiary training for highly skilled mid-level specialists, professionals, and managers, the MoHE will work toward the establishment of a community college sector in consultation with the Ministries of Education, Public Health, and Labor.  The graduates of community colleges will help to fill a growing gap in our workforce one increasingly being met by people from other countries.  Community colleges will offer both short courses in subjects such as mathematics, science, languages, arts, electrical and mechanical engineering technology; training for medical and laboratory technicians; business training, and programs for other mid-level professional positions. This sector has the capacity to absorb large numbers of students and provide cost-effective relevant technical, vocational, and university level education, to students, most of whom would be readily employable. Community colleges would also offer two year tertiary Associate of Arts (AA) degrees for students who follow an appropriate academic program.  These would be high quality institutions, accredited by the national Accreditation Agency and subject to the same standards as other tertiary institutions. 
This sector in developing countries remains small and relatively underdeveloped, though it has been growing rapidly in recent years. In developed countries such as the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom the size of the community colleges sector is double that of the university sector e.g., in the USA there are 12 million students in the community college sector and about half that number in universities. In Afghanistan there are nearly 62,000 students in the higher education sector; a reasonable target for community colleges would be to match that number over the next ten years. These colleges provide short courses and certificate and diploma courses of 1-2 years duration in a spectrum of fields computer technology, office skills, librarianship, business studies, photography, carpentry, plumbing, electrical skills, specialized motor mechanics, TV and computer repairs, tourism and many more. They also provide a two-year Associate of Arts degree.  In addition to being readily employable, such training is ideally suited to small business development. Jobless growth and job creation are major challenges for economies across the world. The small business/informal business areas are almost the only areas of significant employment growth in many countries. Afghanistan with its tourism potential, expertise in carpet making and other crafts, processing of agricultural products etc. will provide a ready market for these graduates.
With a well developed strategy focusing on high quality instruction and the mobilization of adequate resources, this sector has the potential of admitting a substantial part of the high school graduates who would be eligible for post-secondary education by 2014. This would, on the one hand, relieve the pressure on the higher education sector and enable a better differentiation by skill and professional areas in terms of student admissions than is now possible for universities and institutes of higher education. At the same time it would be important to conceive of this as a division of labor between tertiary institutions, as the state of California has done with its universities, state colleges and community colleges, rather than a hierarchy with the universities on the top.  The higher education sector will work out articulation mechanisms between universities and community colleges so that the students who wish to move from one to the other can gain admission to universities including the granting of credit for many academic courses completed at community colleges.  To initiate this effort, the MoHE will establish five community colleges during the plan period to enroll 5000 students by 2014.
Private higher education The access needs of Afghanistan cannot be met solely by public tertiary education institutions alone.  Thus the MoHE will encourage the development of quality private education especially non-profit institutions.  The regulatory but empowering environment will be expanded for the development of private universities.  The MoHE is working to clarify and insure that permission to open private tertiary institutions includes evidence that minimal quality standards are met and will require accreditation within a set period of time.  The quality of provision and the protection of the students from unscrupulous vendors will be paramount in this regard. The MoHE is also working on plans to encourage and assist non-profit higher education institutions. In particular the growth of not for profit universities will be encouraged.  Some government assistance will be considered for non-profit private institutions in recognition of their contribution to national development. This might include assistance in acquiring land, duty-free importation of educational material and equipment, access to scholarship and research funding in critical areas. To insure quality and equity, the same quality assessment and accreditation criteria will be applied to both private and public universities. Private institutions will be encouraged to locate campuses in rural areas and in cities and towns other than Kabul.
Open & Distance Education In the future it will be important to consider the possibility of open and distance education. This would require the injection of resources to develop the expertise to produce quality materials and the technology to deliver such education; establishing partnerships with well established distance education universities in the UK, Malaysia, Thailand and India, for example, is the way forward for such institutions. Given recent research findings about the weaknesses of some distance education programs, special attention should be given to those which include some face to face instruction such as that required in the British Open University or UNISA in South Africa.  While distance education provides opportunities for many who cannot take advantage of university education for a variety of reasons, such as people with full time employment, mobility problems, and women with child-care responsibilities, movement in this direction should be slow with pilot offerings before major expansion is undertaken.  Open and Distance Education Institutions would be subject to the same quality assurance and accreditation requirements as other tertiary institutions.
Credit System:  Once the current revision of the higher education curriculum has been completed, the MoHE will work with universities and institutes to institute a credit system to facilitate comparability of degrees, certificates, and diplomas; transfer of credits between institutions; accumulation of credits over the years (especially important for student who must work full or part-time); and recognition of credits by employers and universities abroad.  Total minimum credit requirements to degree (Bachelors, Masters, and PhD) will need to be calculated so that it is uniform across the system.  This effort is in keeping with the changes underway at the present time in the European Union through the Bologna process, in many other Asian and African countries, and is what has been practiced in Canada and the United States for decades.  Careful adoption of the credit system will put Afghanistan in line with higher education in the rest of the world.  This process will need to be carried out thoroughly in a way that is not just a translation of the traditional course offerings, but fits in with the revision of the curriculum now underway to improve quality and relevance as well as MoHE efforts at quality improvement and quality assessment.
Sub-Program II-3
National Admissions Examination
The Kankor examination, the national admissions test for tertiary education, is the responsibility of the Ministry of Higher Education.  It serves to assess the level of achievement of secondary school graduates. This examination is a major undertaking both in terms of time and resources. A dedicated examinations department within the Ministry has responsibility for conceptualizing and administering the Kankor examination. The existing expertise in the Ministry is dedicated to ensure transparency, fairness and equity in the process so that the best prepared students and students with higher education potential are admitted to the universities and institutes. Concerns have been expressed about weaknesses in the examination for talented students in the arts.  The MoHE will set up a committee to review admission to the Arts to be sure that talented potential students are not prevented from admission to higher education due to poor scores in math and science.  The distribution of students across different disciplines will take into account national needs. Computerizing the entire system ensures efficiency in the process.  The MoHE will consider publication of results on the Internet to diminish attempts to change the results or pressure officials in the MoHE to make or alter placements.
In a modern university system with quality and competitive high school graduates, high school examinations are often adequate for selection to university. Moreover, in the long run, this should be the responsibility of universities as is the case is most counties. However existing conditions in the country do not make this possible. Therefore while the Ministry of Higher Education will continue to have this responsibility at least for the next five years, plans will be discussed about the possibility of shifting this responsibility to universities in the medium to long term. This would relieve the Ministry of managing such micro-processes and enable it to focus on the broader aspects of its mandate of providing leadership, vision, mobilizing resources, promoting international partnerships etc.
Sub-Program II-4
Accreditation and Quality Assurance
Critical to the development of a high quality higher education system is the establishment of an effective quality assurance and accreditation agency at the national level.  The agency will oversee accreditation which is defined as: the process of external quality review used in higher education to scrutinize colleges, universities and higher education programs for quality assurance and quality improvement.  Success results in an accredited institution and/or program.  Institutions will be subject to reaccreditation every five years.
The accreditation agency will facilitate the development of standards for quality for higher education institutions, encourage quality improvement, monitor quality on an ongoing basis, insure that new tertiary institutions meet minimal standards of quality, insure that foreign providers  meet the needs and quality requirements of Afghanistan, and insure that the public is not defrauded by diploma mills or substandard tertiary education providers. The establishment of a higher education accreditation system within the MoHE is called for in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS).
Once the accreditation process has been formally approved as part of the revised Higher Education Law, accreditation will be instituted formally.  The MoHE will work with institutions to establish general broad standards for higher education institutional accreditation.  This will build on the Criteria for Self-assessment developed by the MoHE in June 2009 for institutional self-assessments.  That will provide mechanisms to formally assess the state of higher education institutions and work to improve quality with the long-term goal of achieving international standards to foster national development, improve the public well-being, and ensure that graduates meet national needs as well as being competitive internationally.  In the long run the accreditation process will fit into a national qualifications framework and a national skills development program.
All public and private higher education institutions will be subject to accreditation.  The process will be voluntary during the first two years, but all institutions must achieve at least candidacy for accreditation status by the end of that time or face closure or be placed under the authority of an institution that has reached that status.  The goal of the MoHE is to raise quality standards of public and private tertiary institutions to minimal levels, not to close institutions.  However, those institutions found to be below minimum levels will be closed or put under the control of an accredited institution, following a site visit by peer reviewers which results in a negative recommendation (not to award candidacy for accreditation or not to accredit) accepted by the agency board. Where the board feels that the deficiencies can be resolved quickly, the institution can be given up to six months to demonstrate that it meets acceptable standards.
The focus of the MoHE will be on institutional accreditation rather than program accreditation.  A limited number of programs (not more than a dozen) will be reviewed for accreditation in the professions (e.g. teacher education, computer science, and engineering) under the supervision of the MoHE. The process of quality assurance for teacher education is currently underway.
The Quality Assurance Agency will operate within the MoHE, funded by it, and be responsible to the Deputy Minister Academic Affairs.  It will be largely autonomous within the framework of the Ministry and become totally independent with its own budget line once it is firmly established (in five to six years).  The Governing Board will be made up of seven to nine academics and professionals who have many years of experience with tertiary institutions, are open and fair-minded, and regarded as distinguished experts in their fields.  They will be chosen from a pool of people nominated by public and private higher education institutions from among outstanding academics and professionals.  A Selection Committee will identify the top candidates.  The final appointments will be made by the Minister of Higher Education from among those nominees or as specified by law.  Terms will be for five years with the possibility of reappointment once.
The Board will oversee the operation of the accreditation process and review the recommendations of the site visit peer review teams about whether to admit institutions to candidacy for accreditation, or deny admission.  They will make decisions on accreditation, denial of accreditation, or probation (where an institution is already accredited). 
The Staff will include a director, who will oversee the process and be an ex-officio non-voting member of the Board.  The staff will include specialists on both institutional and program accreditation.
The Agency will be responsible for the selection of peer reviewers from among distinguished academics and professionals (nominated by universities, institutes, and professional associations ), their training, their selection for site visits, and post-site visit evaluation of their performance.
The Board, which will meet at least four times a year, will have an operational arm in the MoHE to facilitate the process of accreditation and quality assurance. Such a unit will be small, efficient and non-bureaucratic and comprise no more that fifteen personnel with a Director. It will develop the details of the accreditation and quality assurance process through an iterative process with the universities and institutes of higher education and referring to best international practice. As a central principle the QA process will be robust and rigorous but respecting the institutional autonomy of universities. The MoHE hopes to include some international peer reviewers from the region and beyond to add experience and depth to the system as well as international comparison and mobility where funding is available. To this end acknowledging the strengths of institutions and identifying weakness and suggesting corrective measures is of paramount importance. A five year cycle of accreditation is planned at which times reaccreditation must take place.  However, the accreditation agency can institute a review sooner than that where it has compelling information that standards are no longer being met by an accredited institution.
Sub-Program II-5
Funding Strategies
The quantum of funds currently received for the higher education sector is abysmally low. No system can offer quality higher education under these resource conditions. A further complication is that the Ministry of Higher Education has two budgets, an Ordinary (or Recurring) and a Development Budget.  The Ordinary Budget is funded from government domestic revenue and the Development Budget from donor and government resources.  The Ordinary Budget which is prepared by the MoHE is limited covering primarily salaries, operation, and maintenance.  The Development Budget is planned and centrally controlled primarily by the Ministry of Finance and donors.  The institutions as well as the Ministry of Higher Education have little discretion in the way these funds can be expended.
A starting point for financing any higher education system must be the determination of the total funds allocated annually to the Ministry of Higher Education. In developed countries the amount awarded to education is in the region of 20-25% of the total budget of which 15-20% is allocated to higher education. It is realized that a substantial part of the current budget of Afghanistan is obtained through foreign assistance. The Ministry of Higher Education will make its case for its fair share of this funding additional funding which is essential if it is to develop a quality higher education system to provide the country with the high level person power needed for its socio-economic development. The significant investment returns for higher education have been laid out in the introduction to this strategic plan.
Once the budget amount is determined, it will be allocated by the Ministry of Finance to the Ministry of Higher Education. The task of the Ministry of Higher Education is to equitably and fairly allocate the funds to the institutions based on budget requests from each institution and a variety of other factors related to quality, size, and needs. Among factors to be considered in this allocation are the following:
The number of undergraduate students
The number and level of postgraduate students
Costs based on disciplinary boundaries e.g., it costs considerably more to train an engineering student than it does for a liberal arts student.  One approach is to formulate three classes of funding low, medium and high cost programs
Faculty research (including government priority areas, previous research performance, the results of competitive proposals).
Faculty salaries (based on level and performance in teaching, research, and service).
Development budget.  Funds allocated for specified earmarked purposes renovation and refurbishment of buildings; research development, libraries, IT facilities, residences, scholarships & bursaries, sports and recreational facilities etc.
At present, almost 100% of funding for higher education is provided by Government. Given the economic state of Afghanistan, this is understandable but it cannot be sustained in the medium and long term. As higher education has both public and private benefits, its costs must be shared between the state, students, business, donors, and the universities.  One might begin with charges for non-academic services.  A second step might include fees for certain business type courses and continuing education courses, then proceed to some fees for undergraduates students from families that can afford to pay. As funds are utilized disproportionately by residence students as compared to non-residence students, a charge on the former might be in order. The fee structure should be applied initially through a means test so that those who can afford to pay are charged actual costs. Postgraduate courses (Masters and PhD) already are subject to fees.  The fact that there is a steady growth of private universities indicates that there is a willingness and ability of some parents and students to pay for their higher education. 
Higher education institution revenue might consist of some of the following income items once the appropriate legislation and regulations are in place:
Government subvention
Income from services (e.g. university farms, hospitals, housing)
Fees (e.g. evening courses, graduate courses, special programs)
Income from university businesses and consulting (e.g. sale of agricultural products, patent income, rental properties, book and other publications; faculty consulting which is part of a university contract).
Contributions from alumni
Grants and gifts from donors
Endowment income
Led, supported and facilitated by the Ministry of Higher Education a concerted and determined effort will be made by the universities to raise funds from commerce and industry, international foundations, international governments and other funding agencies. Some changes in the Education Laws will be necessary to facilitate this process.  The MoHE currently has such a proposal before the Ministries of Finance, Justice, and the Office of the President to bring about these changes.  The MoHE expects this Strategic Plan to help make this possible and to convince these sources to make funds available to universities and institutes of higher education. Ultimately it is the quality of the graduates that will make the most convincing case for further support. Most public universities around the world have multiple sources of funding with some obtaining more than half their funding from non-government sources. These include: gifts and support from business, foundation and donors; endowment income; tuition and fees; income from patents and other entrepreneurial efforts; research support income; and contributions from alumni.  Private institutions are universally almost entirely dependent on multiple private sources of funding and student fees.  If public universities and institutes are not allowed to tap these private resources, they will be at a marked disadvantage compared to private higher education. In the long run, public universities risk second class quality and status compared to private institutions if they are not allowed to obtain funds from multiple non-governmental sources.
In the interim while these mechanisms are being worked out, it is hoped that the amendment to the higher education law before Parliament, which would offer a measure of financial autonomy to universities, will be approved. This would enable universities to earn their own funds and expend it to improve the quality of teaching and learning, research, and service.
A moratorium on establishing any new universities will also contribute to financial efficiency.
The MoHE will assist tertiary institutions to develop greater capacity  at the institutional level about financial management and reporting A finance committee chaired by the university president or director of the institute (in the case of autonomous institutes) should oversee the allocation, expending and accounting of funds. Until Boards of Trustees are established, regular accounting to the Ministry of Higher Education, perhaps on a quarterly basis, will be expected. The Ministry through its financial unit will monitor the accounting procedures and provide advice as and when necessary. Accessing and developing financial expertise both for the Ministry and Institutions will be a priority in the initial stages.
Sub-Program II-6
Higher Education Management Information System (HEMIS) and National Research and Education Network (NREN)
The development and institutionalization of Higher Education Management Information System in Afghanistan (HEMIS) and a National Research and Education Network (NREN) are important parts of the Strategic Plan. Accurate and timely data are needed to promote evidence based planning and develop sound policies. Access to academic, teaching and research information world-wide at all higher education institutions through the NREN) is essential to the development of quality higher education in Afghanistan. The MoHE has involved tertiary institutions in planning the system from the beginning to ensure ownership and sustainability. The system will be developed over several years in an additive fashion e.g. admission, followed by budget, then student records, then faculty statistics, a digital library, etc. This will be followed by appropriate capacity building programs in order to develop expertise.  Feedback to the data providers and by the users academics, staff and students, administrators, is an essential part of the process.
The expected outcomes of the process are as follows:
Data collection, monitoring mechanism in place.
A computerized system at the MOHE.
National capacity for compilation of data within the universities and institutes and for reporting to the MOHE.
Access to research and instructional information for all faculty, staff, and students by the end of the plan period.
Establishment of a digital library accessible to all faculty, staff, and students.
National capacity for use and analysis of Higher Education data and indicators.
The expected time line for the development of a viable system is estimated at 15 months.
This National Higher Education Strategic Plan sets out a vision and goals for higher education designed to move this sector from its current inadequate condition and transform it into a high quality system that will provide the trained graduates, knowledge, and creativity essential for the national development and well-being of the people of Afghanistan.  It is a product of consultation and consensus, realistic in its goals, yet ambitious in recognizing the need for transformation if Afghanistan is to meet its development objectives and be an effective participant in the knowledge economies that are driving growth and prosperity around the world.  The Ministry of Higher Education is committed to the successful implementation of this national higher education strategic plan and realization of its vision.


                           UNESCO: Afghan Science and Technology Policy
A recent study undertaken at Kabul University by UNESCO on Science & Technology Development makes the following salient observations of relevance to the higher education sector:
S&T related ministries, and executing agencies will be challenged to review and recompose mandates of public funded S&T institutions, their links with one another, and to forge pro-active relationships with the private sector.
Pursued in this context, Afghanistans long term development, including the public and private investment projects, will need to be more technologically driven, and her public and private enterprises should work more closely and more strategically to better harness their synergies and complementarities.
It is important that the S&T policy provides a catalyst role for the countrys long term development and the strategic links to deepen commercial industrial and entrepreneurial developmental activities.
In order to encourage a positive S&T culture and environment in Afghanistan for research government will continue to devote a high proportion of the national budget to education and research, training and S&T related sectors such as the quantitative social sciences which enable the kind of detailed comprehensive policy analysis so essential to effective development.
As a component of this an increased allocation will be made to reinforce science and technology and vocational education.
These will aim to facilitate enterprise research and capacity reform and enable them to acquire, develop, adopt and incorporate ICT and to apply and disseminate science and technology, especially to SMEs and indigenous enterprise.


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