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Afghanistan: News from the higher education battlefront

In a country plagued by an on-going war, higher education has not exactly been an item placed very high on the government’s agenda. However, higher education is a beacon of hope for many young students in Afghanistan. Understandably, the lack of infrastructure, capacity, staff, security, and funding are hampering many students’ ambitions – nevertheless, according to Afghanistan Today more than 143 000 high schools students took the national university entrance exam in 2012 with 40 000 gaining admission to public institutions, which is more than 6 000 above the country’s stated capacity. Additional estimated 18 000 will enrol with private providers of varied quality who charge fees many cannot afford. In view of the growing demand for higher education, the government is thus currently looking for ways to increase access through collaborations with neighbouring countries but also to provide at least some of its students with international study opportunities.

Originally announced in 2011 by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), the government has for the first time earmarked direct funds for students to pursue their degrees abroad through a USD 5 million (EUR 4 million) scholarship fund. Its main goal is to encourage the best students (evaluated through an additional exam) to study overseas and then return to Afghanistan to help with the rebuilding process. For the year 2012, the government revealed the doubling of funding for the scheme to USD 10 million (EUR 8 million) with a hope that it will be increased up to USD 15 million (EUR 12 million) in 2013. The focus is on specific subjects including languages, engineering, pharmacy, and agriculture. The government further plans to increase the number of its students in specific neighbouring countries (i.e. India and Turkey from 500 in 2011 to 1 000 in 2012).

Afghani Ministry of Higher Education (2011 funding announcement) China Daily (2012 education abroad funding) Afghanistan Today