Options for Financing Public Higher Education in Afghanistan - Hassan Aslami

The Setting – Public Higher Education in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the demand for higher education has increased remarkably while public higher education institutions still rely heavily on inadequate government funding. In addition, the constitutional provision guaranteeing free higher education up to the bachelor’s level in public institutions, the overall weak economy of the country, and the lack of institutional autonomy, contribute to financial austerity in public higher education institutions.


The Research

In this study, the researcher explored alternative funding sources and options for financing public universities in Afghanistan. An integrated theoretical framework guided this study as it explored the options and implementation of policies, practices, and procedures for revenue diversification. This study used a qualitative research design based on Wolcott’s (1994) three dimensions: description, analysis, and interpretation. The main data collection methods were document review and semi-structured interviews with 40 key informants. The research participants represented higher education institutions including leaders and administrators from public universities, faculty, students and alumni, as well as officials from the Ministry of Higher Education. Other participants included representatives of the private sector and international donors and organizations.


Kabul Education University Kabul Polytechnic University Ministry of Higher Education Kabul University of Medical Science


The Findings

The findings suggest several potential supplemental funding sources for Afghan public higher education. The major additional sources include entrepreneurial activities, user charges, a dual-track tuition system, donations, and tuition fees. The study discovered that public universities could also generate substantial additional income through partnerships with private and public sectoral ministries and institutions.


The findings also reveal several barriers to revenue diversification in Afghanistan higher education. The key economic factors include limited financial capability of cost-sharing partners — families, students, businesses, and employers — limited employment opportunity for students, and nonfunctional financial autonomy. The organizational barriers comprised lack of proper institutional structure and capacity, accountability mechanisms, and an appropriate legal framework. Other major impediments are the centralized governing system, political pressures, and prevalent administrative corruption.


The study concludes that revenue diversification is essential to achieve the goals of the higher education system. Therefore, the study recommends that the public universities utilize one or two of the most feasible alternative sources such as entrepreneurial activities, user charges, and donations. Other recommendations include improving institutional capacity, garnering stakeholder and political support, and creating the necessary policy and legal framework to make revenue diversification possible.


The Author

The author has two decades of professional experience and responsibility working with international organizations, academic institutions, and the United Nations, including fourteen years in higher education development and capacity building. Much of his work on higher education development focused on developing academic programs, research, monitoring, evaluation, proposal development, institutional capacity development, and design and management of large-scale development programs. His scholarly work focuses on higher education policy, financing higher education, teacher retention, faculty development, institutional autonomy, and academic degree programs. This study is part of his doctoral dissertation research.