The Challenges of Implementing Quality Assurance in Afghanistan Universities – Javid Mussawy

Setting – Public Higher Education Institutions in Afghanistan

In the past decade, Afghanistan has experienced a rapid expansion of higher education system including the development of a vibrant private higher education sector and the establishment of new public higher education institutions (HEIs). A quality assurance and accreditation (QAA) process was institutionalized in 2012 by the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) as a mechanism to improve quality of higher education. This research examines the accreditation process at the smaller, provincial, public HEIs that are teaching centered in contrast to the process at the much larger, urban universities that are research focused. The research uses sensemaking and sensegiving (Weick, 1995) as a theoretical lens to analyze and interpret policy enactment at public HEIs.


The Research

This study examines factors that influence the implementation of quality assurance and accreditation (QAA) policy at teaching universities in Afghanistan. The investigator used a qualitative multi-case study approach to collect data from key informants involved in implementation of accreditation at teaching and research universities. Research participants represent four distinct institutions: the national quality assurance and accreditation (QAA) directorate, teaching universities, research universities, and donor agencies. The investigator used a combination of participant observation, archival review, and semi-structured interviews.


Scenes from Afghanistan Universities


The investigator was mainly interested in exploring how accreditation policy was understood (sensemaking) by key-informants and mechanisms/approaches used to involve other stakeholders (sensegiving) in implementing it. The research incorporated the views and experiences of QAA officials, university administrators, internal quality assurance units (IQAUs), external reviewers, and donor funded project representatives.  The research sought to uncover the complexities associated with the integration of quality assurance in day-to-day activities of teaching universities, and contrasted the ways that the teaching and research universities were able to cope with expectations of the QAA directorate.


Preliminary Outcomes

Preliminary findings suggest that administrative protocols overshadow the goals of implementing quality assurance and accreditation in public universities. The research highlights the significant role of leadership involvement in interpreting the accreditation framework and making strategic decisions to achieve accreditation goals. Universities where the senior administrators served as a member of IQAUs or supervised the process closely made greater progress compared to those with minimal engagement of senior administrators.


In smaller, teaching universities, the lack of adequate resources and institutional autonomy were factors that inhibited successful implementation of QAA. According to a majority of research participants, public HEIs lack the structures and systems needed to effectively internalize a foreign-derived QAA policy. As a result, implementing accreditation as the sole-mechanism to improve quality remains a contested process.  However, the research does document the development of a national system to oversee quality of higher education services.


The Author

Javid Mussawy comes from Afghanistan where he worked at Baghlan University from 2006-2015. At Baghlan he served as the vice-chancellor for academic affairs from 2010-2015. Previously he was the chair of the English department and taught research and English linguistics. He also worked as a consultant providing teaching services to the Baghlan Public Health Institution, Aga Khan Foundation, GIZ, and private universities.  In 2011, he established the Naw-Andishan Educational Center (NAEC) for youth, aged 12-19 years. While at NAEC, Javid managed the Access Micro-scholarship program, a two-year grant from the US Embassy in Afghanistan to teach English to 150 adolescents.  This study is part of his doctoral dissertation research.