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American University of Afghanistan  

Posted by Assad Abbas

The idea to establish the American University of Afghanistan emerged in 2002, based on the success of other American Universities around the world. In just four years, the American University of Afghanistan has progressed from idea to reality. Today, the University is Afghanistan’s only not-for-profit, non-political, non-sectarian, non-governmental, private and independent, internationally-supported university.


In June 2008, United States First Lady Laura Bush announced $40 million (USD) in funding over five years. Later that year, Dr. Athanasios Moulakis was named Acting President. By the end of the year, enrollment in the Undergraduate and Foundation Studies programs had reached almost 350 students.

Chief Academic and Chief Finance and Administration Officers were named and a new Vision and Mission statement and first-ever business and academic plans were adopted to make the American University of Afghanistan fully operational. Very significantly, the University also launched a global fundraising appeal to permit implementation of plans for academic and national leadership. To read the Vision and Mission statement.

The University’s first students entered in March to improve their English-language and study skills in foundation classes, and in September the first credit-bearing undergraduate courses, adult professional courses and adult professional level programs were offered. After an international search, in December Dr. Thomas Stauffer was named the University’s first President and Chief Executive Officer.

In March, United States First Lady, Laura Bush, visited the University site and announced a substantial grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to launch the institution. To read Mrs. Bush’s speech, click here.

On a 5-acre interim campus two buildings, heavily damaged in clashes between Afghan and Soviet forces in the 1980s and the factional war that followed, were repaired for office and classroom use. While first staff members were recruited, the Asia Foundation was named fiduciary agent by USAID.

A charter was granted on July 26 by the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education, under Article 46, Chapter 2 of the new Afghan Constitution and Article 445 of the Civil Code, to establish a private university. A feasibility study was initiated by the Coordinating Council of International Universities, based in the United States, to recommend an institutional framework.

In December, the inaugural meeting of the Board of Trustees convened in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where Dr. Sharif Fayez, Afghanistan's former Minister of Higher Education, was elected President Pro Tempore, serving until April 2007, when he was named "Founder" by the new president and took on duties including liaison with the Afghan government.

In an address before UNESCO, United States First Lady, Laura Bush, announced support to educational initiatives in Afghanistan, and United States Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad gave his strong support for establishing the American University of Afghanistan. To read Mrs. Bush’s speech.

The Afghanistan High Commission for Private Investment offered leases at nominal expense on two parcels of land until 2103, totaling 48 acres, on the southwest edge of Kabul near the gutted Royal Palace to develop a private university. Also, the American University of Afghanistan Foundation was chartered in the State of Delaware (United States) under leadership of Dr. Jacob van Lutsenburg Maas, who later became Foundation president, as a non-profit philanthropic organization to receive these leases. (In 2007, the Foundation became a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization).

Dr. Sharif Fayez, Afghan Minister of Higher Education, proposed establishment of the nation’s first-ever independent university, and President Hamid Karzai stressed the importance of education in a nation-wide speech.

The American University of Afghanistan prepares men and women for successful service in multiple professional fields through tolerant reflection, disciplined study and practical experience. Students are challenged to grow intellectually in self-confidence and good character as essential qualities for future public and private sector careers and civic leadership.

While celebrating Afghanistan’s cultural heritage, the University promotes harmony and leadership to help sustain a bright national future. In its programs, the University responds to the needs of the nation and region. Academic freedom and responsibility, individual rights, democracy, security, and integrity are core values. Being private and not owned or controlled by any government, the institution is neither profit-making, partisan nor sectarian. Exemplary moral and ethical behavior is demanded of every member of the University community.

At global quality levels, the University provides American style higher education. Features include partnerships with major universities abroad, an emphasis on student achievement, and predominant use of English as the language of instruction and administration. Institutional accreditations, reliance on information technology, community outreach, and institutional citizenship are pursued.

Scholar and practitioner faculty members, able to integrate theory and realism in their work, lead academic programs at foundation, undergraduate, graduate, and adult continuing education instructional levels. Excellent teaching, productive scholarship and research, and caring student services are University hallmarks.

The American University of Afghanistan provides equal opportunity for all. Students are recruited without regard to their demographic profiles, financial capacities, beliefs, English language abilities, or personal histories. To address any individual problem areas, students may participate in transitional learning opportunities before being admitted to regular academic programs.

Academic programs provide students with a bridge to the wider world. General studies and higher education for the professions anchor the curriculum, while student abilities in critical thinking, communications, teamwork, and strong work ethic are heavily promoted. Along with a commitment to responsible citizenship, students are encouraged to exercise sound independent judgment, appreciate alternative viewpoints, and find a positive, forward directed context for their lives.
Managed transparently and efficiently, a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees governs the American University of Afghanistan. Being independent, the institution is financed through tuition and fees, worldwide support, and entrepreneurship.

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