Establishment of an Afghanistan Online University

The Human-Computer Interaction and Visual Analytics group of the Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences led the technical sessions on the first conference on establishing the Afghanistan Online University. Prof. Dr. Kawa Nazemi was assigned to the steering committee and the coordination team of the envisaged university.

The Afghanistan Online University aims to provide young persons of Afghan origin living outside Afghanistan – notably those living in refugee camps and other precarious settings – the opportunity to acquire general professional competencies and expertise in Afghan culture and society. A comprehensive system of online teaching, learning, and examination concurrently ensure the accessibility of the study provisions for young persons living in Afghanistan.

Students will be prepared to be professionally active in tune with their competencies all over the world and contribute to a desirable future of Afghanistan. A mix of professors and junior academics both from various countries of the world and of Afghan origin – among them those having lost the opportunity to serve universities in Afghanistan – can contribute to academic quality in all disciplines represented and the enhancement of knowledge on Afghan culture and society. Cooperation in teaching and research will be encouraged between scholars employed at this online university, those at a partner institution to be found for each discipline, and persons from many countries and institutions to be involved on a part-time basis.

Study programs on bachelor and master level, similar in length to the dominant „Bologna“ practices, as well as doctoral training will be provided – as customary at most open universities in the world – in the humanities, social sciences, and economic sciences, actually in 10 fields: Language and literature, education, psychology, social work, sociology, political science, journalism/communication science, economics, business studies, and additionally in IT/computer science. Master programs might specialize in certain topics (e.g. natural resources management) or interdisciplinary (e.g., gender studies). These fields are likely to be enriched by a creative dialogue between the theories, methods, and findings and the specifics of culture and society of Afghan culture and society. No study programs are envisaged in fields requiring substantial laboratory work or internships, of a clear universalistic knowledge base, and a sole national or regional thrust. Further education and continuing professional education programs might be added in the future.

Altogether, 60 professors and the same number of junior academic staff (FTE), supported by a substantial number of administrative staff, have to be employed for the ten disciplines to cover half of the teaching assignments and to be the backbone of research. A quarter of teaching each will be taken care of by scholars of the partner institutions and scholars from all over the world being involved part-time. Altogether, about 5,000 students can be accommodated, and a further increase can be realized with limited additional resources.

The online university will strive for high academic quality, a convincing link between academic quality and professional relevance, a guarantee of academic freedom, as well as support of the academic areas and of those persons suffering most under current adverse political conditions in Afghanistan, i.e., ethnic and religious minorities as well as women.

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