Country and Sector BackgroundSince December 2001 and the inauguration of the Afghanistan Interim Administration (AIA) Afghanistan?s economic, social and political achievements have been extraordinary. The AIA, and the subsequent Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA) were confronted with an economy reeling from protracted conflict and drought, more than five million people displaced as refugees in neighboring countries, economic activities steered in an informal or illicit direction by insecurity, and a state that had become virtually non functional in terms of policy making and service delivery ? although the structures and many staff remained. The achievements ? various reforms in the government, a successful constitutional Loya Jirga, peaceful completion of the country?s first ever presidential election, and the inauguration of the new Cabinet in December 2004, just to name a few ? have been significant, and in Afghanistan?s context, remarkable.
The achievements notwithstanding, the challenges remain enormous, including the restoration of countrywide security, rehabilitation of key economic and social infrastructure, and the establishment of functional state institutions across the country. One of the major bottlenecks that has affected and continues to affect the pace and scope of reconstruction is a massive skill deficit that cuts across all institutions in Afghanistan, from public administrators to teachers, from managers to skilled labor force needed for the bulk of the reconstruction work and its maintenance.
Over the past three years, the government of Afghanistan has made notable efforts to revive the higher education sector in parallel with ongoing progress in primary and secondary education. Eighteen higher education institutions have reopened their doors and enrollment has jumped from 4,000 students in 2001 to 37,000 in the fall of 2004. As in primary education, the enrollment profile is skewed with approximately two-thirds of students in their first and second years. With students returning from Pakistan and other countries and the students graduating from high schools, demand for higher education will also be on the rise, not only in terms of enrollment but also in terms of relevance of curricula and quality of teaching.
Independent from immediate reconstruction needs, Afghan universities suffer from a large majority of the problems that typically plague public tertiary institutions in many developing countries: low quality, lack of relevance, insufficient funding, and weak governance and management. While these problems have certainly been exacerbated by war and its negative economic consequences, they reflect deep structural dysfunctions that require careful attention.
B. PROPOSED PROGRAMThe development objective of the proposed program is to progressively restore basic operational performance at a group of core universities in Afghanistan. This will provide an institutional base for an agenda focusing on tertiary education development, capacity building and reform.
Technical assistance would be made available to the Ministry of Higher Education t (i) define the relationship between the Ministry and higher education institutions and facilitate/promote the autonomy and accountability of the institutions, (ii) identify the information flow needs between universities and the MOHE, (iii) review the financing strategies of higher education, including developing funding formulae and mobilizing external resources, and (iv) institutions to implement the credit system and to address any other institutional development plans.
Technical assistance will also be provided to advise the government on the reform of the employment structure including career paths, salary scale, promotion criteria, and incentive system (including the opportunity to consult) of the academic staff.
The Ministry of Higher Education will be the coordinating body for overall program implementation while Program Coordination Team (PCT) at the university and faculty levels will be responsible for implementation of block grants and university partnership programs. The university-level PCT will consist of: the chancellor, heads of academic affairs, finance and administration, male and female representatives of faculty members, male and female representatives of students, and local business leaders. The faculty/department-level PCT will consist of: the dean, head of administration, male and female faculty representatives and male and female student representatives.
The program would be implemented over four and a half years. The implementation completion date will be December 31, 2009, and the grant closing date will be June 30, 2010.