Bureaucratic Policies and Patronage Politics: Prospects and Challenges of Private Higher Education in Afghanistan
Graduates of one of Kabul's private universities. Photo: promotion material
The latest AAN report, “Bureaucratic Policies and Patronage Politics: Prospects and Challenges of Private Higher Education in Afghanistan” by Niamatullah Ibrahimi, looks into the impressive growth of private higher education sector in Afghanistan in recent years but how this growth is overlooking the comprehensive policies and long-term vision towards a better quality education and its role in stability and development.
Niamatullah argues that, against the backdrop of soaring demand and the inadequacies of the public sector, introducing private higher education seemed inevitable. He acknowledges that the higher education sector is gaining strategic importance for the future of Afghanistan, with profound implications for the political stability, security and socio-economic development. Afghanistan, he writes, is well on the way to producing the largest ‘educated’ class in its history.
However, the expansion of the higher-education sector has occurred faster than the development of the governance and institutional framework required. This led to a lack of oversight, mutual ‘jealous competition’ instead of cooperation between state sector and private sector as well as partly very low teaching standards. He cautions that the weak governance and regulatory environment is also allowing religious and political stakeholders to compete, with their own private institutions, for young Afghans’ ‘minds’ with partly extreme views, influencing the future direction of the country’s rapidly expanding intelligentsia. For these institutions, the nature and quality of education are secondary to their political and ideological goals. Niamatullah further discusses the advantages and disadvantages of both the state universities and the private institutions, pointing out significant weaknesses in both systems.
Niamatullah concludes that Afghanistan is witnessing the rise of a ‘mass educated class’. The massification of higher education is accompanied by a ‘youth bulge’ likely with profound political, security and socio-economic implications. If managed well, the increase in desire for learning can open an important avenue for Afghanistan’s long-term growth and stability. On the other hand, an informed debate is needed to mitigate the risks that come with the rapid, poorly overseen growth and to make private higher education viable in the long-term.
About the author: Niamatullah Ibrahimi is an analyst who has extensively researched and written about current and historical affairs of Afghanistan. In 2009, he co-founded Afghanistan Watch and, prior to that, he worked for the Crisis States Research Centre of the London School of Economics (2005–10) and the International Crisis Group (2003–05). Ibrahimi studied politics and international relations with the London School of Economics and is currently undertaking his PhD at the Australian National University.
AAN has co-published this report with Afghanistan Watch.
The full report can be downloaded here.
An interview discussing the findings of the report can be found here.