Program Title: Afghanistan University Support & Workforce Development Program (USWDP)

Cooperative Agreement No: AID-306-A-13-00009-00

Prime Implementers: Family Health International, Inc. (FHI 360), and University of Massachusetts (UMass)

Sub-recipients: Purdue University

Altai Consulting: Afghanistan Holding Group

Counterpart Institutions: Ministry of Higher Education and 10 selected Afghan Public Universities in Regional Economic Zones

Period of Performance: January 01, 2014 to December 31, 2018


The Program will assist Afghanistan’s higher education professionals effectively manage the growth of tertiary education while improving academic quality. Building on the successes of the Afghanistan Higher Education Project (HEP, 2006-2014) and other initiatives, the Program will improve the management capacity of the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) and 10 public universities. It will help the MoHE implement key strategies designed to ensure quality education and employment for a larger number of Afghan men and women. It will enable universities to manage and expand education resources in ways that encourage effective governance structures. It also will assist in developing learning environments that foster well-qualified and professional faculty members, highly capable and motivated students, diverse and market-oriented academic programs, sustainable public-private collaboration, international university partnerships, and other innovations that move Afghanistan toward the higher education system it deserves.


The Program’s goals are to strengthen the MoHE systems and management capacity to be able to receive and successfully manage direct funding from donors and on-budget projects.   The following activities are included:

Subcomponent 1.1:  Strengthen MoHE’s management systems by implementing and monitoring University Quality Assurance (QA) and accreditation standards:

Enhance the Commission on Quality Assurance (QA) and Accreditation by training peer reviewers and assess the accreditation process, support the MoHE in communicating the importance of QA and accreditation, and link the QA Commission with international accreditation institutions

Develop clear strategies, in conjunction with the QA Directorate, for following up with institutions that have achieved admission to the first or second levels of accreditation candidacy

Develop a gender sensitive training program for university staff and faculty.

Subcomponent 1.2:  Develop policy and procedural capacity to support public university autonomy:

Provide expert technical support to identify and implement an appropriate model of financial autonomy and assess whether autonomy policies are being implemented effectively

Develop tools for the Anti-Corruption Department to track and audit the solicitation and use of private funds

Explore the extension of university autonomy beyond the financial realm.

Subcomponent 1.3:  Improve the management of the MoHE’s human, financial and other resources:

Guide the Leadership Team to prioritize needs and develop a timeline of Training and Technical Assistance

Develop a five-year capacity development plan and conduct ongoing monitoring and annual review of the capacity development plan.

Ensure Gender policies are integrated into management systems.


The Program will assist Afghan universities to overhaul their academic programs and management structure to help them become competitive regionally and at preparing students for employment.  The Program will work closely with ten public universities:  Kabul University, Kabul Polytechnic University, Kabul Medical University, Kabul Education University (Shaheed Prof. Rabani Education University), Nangarhar University, Herat University, Balkh University, Kandahar University, Kunduz University and Khost University. The Program will complement direct capacity building activities with outreach to employers using a sophisticated communications strategy that addresses specifically the concerns and priorities of regional industries. 

Subcomponent 2.1:  Strengthen university administrative, Quality Assurance (QA), and accreditation and financial management systems:

Establish and support a Leadership Team at each university to prioritize capacity development needs and develop and implement a five-year institutional development plan for each university.

Establish effective governance procedures for QA and accreditation.

Strengthen university capacity to receive and implement grants.

Subcomponent 2.2:  Strengthen existing curricula and develop new academic programs and curricula to provide market-oriented knowledge and skills:

Create Education and Employment Advisory Committees; conduct an Employment Sector Analysis

Provide small grants/scholarships to faculty to support research and course development, with a focus on female faculty.

Create a process for developing new undergraduate and graduate programs; enhance existing academic programs

Subcomponent 2.3:  Develop and pilot an employment-oriented associate degree program:

Determine demand for and viability of new associate degrees; promote the understanding of the nature and purpose of associate’s degrees among government, businesses and academic leaders; invite universities interested in creating associate degree programs to a national workshop

Support the establishment of an Associate Degree Steering Committee at each interested University

Create partnerships with Community Colleges for International Development (CCID).

Subcomponent 2.4:  Establish career and partnership centers and other mechanisms to link students to practical experience and employment:

Establish university career centers with a focus on internships and apprenticeships; provide academic advising and career counseling to students; establish a mentoring program for male and female graduate students;

Launch soft skills training for senior students of targeted universities.

Launch Computer Management and Office Automation training

Establish and act as secretariat of UIACs at target universities.

Subcomponent 2.5:  Establish university partnerships between selected Afghan universities and American or international universities and/or the private sector:

Fostering relationships with the core FHI 360 university partners (UMASS and Purdue), which will provide assistance with faculty exchange, study tours, scholarships, and TA in management systems and policy development

Provide graduate scholarships and faculty exchange with the regional universities.

Establishing the partnership with Florida State University, Asian Institute of Technology, Punjab Agricultural University.

Additionally, the Program has a strong research agenda that includes three main longitudinal studies.   First, a longitudinal study will examine changes over time in institutional development at participating universities.  Key sources of data will include institutional self-assessment reports, which are an important component of the quality assurance and accreditation process, as well as surveys and interviews with university staff, students, and public and private sector employers to assess policies, knowledge, skills, commitments, and behaviors. Second, a longitudinal tracer study will be implemented for the duration of the project to trace sets of graduates of the degree programs as they enter, or fail to enter, the labor market. Using primarily qualitative methods, the study will provide insight into the lived realities of graduates as they seek employment in a challenging job market.  The third study will examine industry dynamics in key fields and how they change over the course of the project. Initially, the study will seek to understand what openings are available for engaging industry in university planning, student career development, and more, using the findings to inform programming. Over time, the study will examine changes in industry perceptions of the quality of the Afghan university system. Key to all studies is the identification of relevant (quantitative and qualitative) indicators, the development of valid and reliable measures, and the broad dissemination of findings. The goal of these studies is to inform future tertiary education and workforce development programs in Afghanistan and other complex environments.