Friday, April 15, 2005

an american u. rises in afghanistan

By SHAILAJA NEELAKANTAN
(This article appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education in April 2005).

The groundbreaking ceremony for the American University of Afghanistan, the country's first private, American-style university, took place in Kabul last month.

The university, which plans to open in 2006, is patterning itself after other American-style institutions abroad, such as the American University of Beirut. It will provide courses in management, communications, and the liberal arts for 1,100 undergraduates. All courses will be taught in English and will be open to students from Afghanistan and the region.

The university will aggressively reach out to young Afghan women, Afghan higher-education officials said. It plans to build appropriate facilities and housing for women, award scholarships to poor women, and hire female professors.

The U.S. government is supporting the university with a multiyear commitment of more than $15-million, Laura Bush, the first lady, said in a speech in Kabul last month. She visited a teacher-training institute, where she spoke of the importance of educating women.
Those pushing for the new university believe there is sufficient interest among Afghans and Afghan-Americans to sustain a private institution.

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan attended the groundbreaking ceremony, along with Sharif Fayez, Afghanistan's former higher-education minister, who is interim president of the new university. The Asia Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit group, has signed a grant agreement with the U.S.

Agency for International Development to act as the new university's fiduciary agent for one year. During that time, it will develop a set of financial and administrative systems for the new university and help it raise grant money from AID and other donors.

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