Implementing new Business Associate Degree programs in Afghanistan

Reported by Eunice Kua


In the final instalment of the CIE Spring 2018 Speaker series, Matt Glennon, Lecturer in Marketing at the Isenberg School of Management, and Muhammad Iqbal Halimi, Master’s student in international education, presented a review of their work supporting the development and implementation of a new Business Associate Degree program in 3 partner universities in Afghanistan.


This work is part of CIE’s role as lead technical partner in the USAID-funded Afghanistan University Support and Workforce Development Program (USWDP).


According to Matt, the 2-year associate degree was a new type of program for the partner universities, located in in Nangarhar, Balkh, and Herat. Previously only 4-year degree programs were offered. Thus there were many details to be worked out, including curriculum development, awarding of credits, expectations of students, etc. 


With his background as an international marketing consultant, Matt (right) was recruited as Business Partnership Coordinator for the project in 2017. His approach to the challenge of starting a new program was to treat it as a business project, i.e., to identify the customer needs, prioritize them, implement solutions and collect feedback.


The partnerships thus began with a needs assessment and providing support to the Afghan faculty in developing syllabi and teaching methods for the new associate degree courses. Partnership meetings for faculty training and exchange were held in Afghanistan in March 2017 and a study tour to community colleges in Vietnam is planned for June 2018.


Three U.S. community college professors from Holyoke, Greenfield and Berkshire Community Colleges, with experience in accounting, business and related fields, were also recruited to provide support and contribute their expertise in associate degree courses.


The project set up structures for regular communication with Afghan faculty, facilitating contact with them 7-8 times per month. It has implemented regular surveys which help to provide a better picture of faculty needs and interests as well as realities on the ground. Recent survey topics included access to technology and topics of interest for upcoming training.


The challenges faced in the project include language issues, as many textbooks are only available in English, and Internet connectivity.


Iqbal (left) provided some background on the impetus for associate degrees, noting that Afghanistan’s Ministry of Higher Education had begun discussing the idea in 2012. A first associate degree in information technology (IT) started in 2014 and was very successful, as was a second associate degree, in biomedical equipment. The business associate degree is thus the third in a series of new programs.


Discussion and questions about the program from faculty and students present included how the program fit into the current economic context of Afghanistan, job prospects for graduates, and the possible implications of this particular model of education in Afghanistan’s higher education landscape.