Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, November 16th, 2018

Unless You Create Good Universities; You cannot Move into the Next Phase of Development!!


Unless You Create Good Universities; You cannot Move into the Next Phase of Development!!

The title of this paper is derived from the book of The New Asian Hemisphere written by Kishore Mahbubani, the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, one of the top universities in the Asia. Mabbubani argues in his book that the only way for Asian countries to attract the best minds of the world is creating good and successful universities as the western countries did and have been doing. Asian countries also can move into the next phase of development through founding rigorous and highly qualified universities.
If we have a critical glance at Afghanistan’s private and public universities, to what extent are we on the right track in higher education, and how much we have been successful in this regard? Is Afghanistan able to move into the next phase of development with holding the extant private and public higher education institutions? I am trying to respond to the above questions in this paper. Currently there are 82 private institutes of higher education and universities (Afghanistan Analytical Network, 2014) and there are 22 public universities active across Afghanistan (Ministry of Higher Education’s website). Of the above public and private universities and institutes of higher education in Afghanistan, a few of them are pretty able to compete with other neighboring countries’ universities, and those are mostly private universities.
When Mahbubani is arguing that the prerequisite for moving into the next stage of development is establishing good universities, in my mind, he is talking about the importance and significance of soft power that higher education bestows to a society. In todays’ world having soft power is the most important power that a country can have, and most importantly this soft power is enriched, enhanced, and achieved via educating the people. This essential of prosperity, functionality, and as Mahbubani says “next phase of development” includes academic power, cultural power, and social power. According to Joseph Nye, the privileged of this terminology (soft power), soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. Now the question crossing in my mind, maybe in everybody’s mind, is this that how much the public and private universities in Afghanistan have the power of attraction and appeal to form the preferences of Afghanistan’s youths to prefer studying at public and private universities inside Afghanistan rather than going to foreign countries for pursuing their higher education? The answer to this question is hard and challenging.
When the young citizenry of Afghanistan is moving to foreign countries for higher education, it echoes two things: either there are not qualified and professional cadres at public and private universities or the universities themselves do not have the soft power of attraction and appeal to convince the young generations to pursue their higher education inside Afghanistan. In my view, there are adequate professional cadres in Afghanistan who have master’s degree and PhD from top universities either of neighboring countries, European countries, or America. But unfortunately, most of the higher education institutions in Afghanistan particularly public higher education enterprises do not have professional, standardized, and rigorous educational leadership and effective policymaking mechanisms for attracting the students and recruiting the qualified instructors.
Public universities in Afghanistan besides their weak and abortive managerial and leadership systems have a specific glass ceiling for recruitment of new faculty, and anyone crossing that level, their chance to be recruited is controversial or it gives the signal of rejection. But what about the private universities? Since they do not have such unbreakable glass ceiling, when they are not able to attract both the talented students and highly potential faculty, it showcases that there is something wrong either with their recruitment policy, leadership and managerial mechanisms, or with their entire academic essence and ethos. 
Nobody can deny that private and public universities in Afghanistan brought many effective and vital changes in the society. We started almost with zero, eroded and damaged educational infrastructures after the fall of Taliban’s regime, and currently there are 82 private institutes of higher education and universities and 22 public universities in Afghanistan. It projects that in terms of quantity we went ahead very fast and well but how much in terms of quality, the higher education in Afghanistan improved, is the question that every citizen of Afghanistan is asking themselves. In effect, some of the private institutions in Afghanistan are doing great and have enough potentials for tangible and considerable advancement and development; in other words, can move Afghanistan into the next phase of development providing that they are managed well. 
When Mahbubani is talking about entering the next phase of development, he refers this valuable and important obligation to higher education institutions of a country. Indeed, higher education institutions are the cornerstones of a country. In order to move Afghanistan into the next stage of development, higher education institutions in Afghanistan need to embrace a central and instrumental change. Public universities need to standardize and renovate their faculty recruitment policy, teaching methodologies, examination procedures, entrance matriculation, and their staff and students’ evaluation process. Moreover, public institutions need desperately to substitute meritocracy and academic competencies in lieu of kingship and nepotism in the crux of their performances, and must restructure their leadership and managerial schemes accordingly. Likewise, private universities need to streamline their mission statement from trading on their credentials to serving the public on their credentials, and bring fundamental and key metamorphosis in their leadership approach regarding the essence of higher education.

Hamid Bamik is a Graduate Student in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis University of Missouri-Columbia. He can be reached at the hbqwf@mail.missouri.edu

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