American University of Afghanistan

The American University of Afghanistan
د افغانستان امریکايي پوهنتون
دانشگاه امریکایی افغانستان
Type Independent, self-governing, not-for-profit university operating on the US liberal arts model
Established 2006
Founder Sharif Fayez
Chairman Dr. Akram Fazel (Board of Trustees, Chairman)
President Dr. Mark A. English
Provost Dr. Timor Saffary
Students 1,151 students currently enrolled in degree programs
Location Kabul, Kabul Province, Afghanistan
34°28′32″N 69°7′34″W / 34.47556°N 69.12611°W / 34.47556; -69.12611
Nickname AUAF
Mascot Simorgh

The American University of Afghanistan (Dari: پوهنتون امریکایی افغانستان) (AUAF) is Afghanistan’s first private, not-for-profit institution of higher education. Chartered in 2004, AUAF offers an MBA program, four undergraduate degree programs, and continuing education and professional development training (the Professional Development Institute).


The idea for AUAF began in 2002 with Dr. Sharif Fayez, then Afghan Minister of Higher Education. During his time as minister, he proposed the creation of Afghanistan’s first-ever private university. The following year in an address before UNESCO, United States First Lady Laura Bush announced her support of educational initiatives in Afghanistan. The United States Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, likely inspired from his own experience at The American University of Beirut, encouraged the establishment of The American University of Afghanistan.

The Saleha Bayat Building at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul.

The Afghanistan High Commission for Private Investment offered leases on two parcels of land totaling 55.354 acres (224,010 m2) in the Darulaman area of Kabul until 2103. In addition, the non-profit American University of Afghanistan corporation was chartered in the State of Delaware, under the leadership of Dr. Jacob van Lutsenburg Maas, who later became the non-profit corporation's President, to receive these leases. (In 2007, the non-profit corporation became a tax-exempt 501(c) 3 organization).

A charter for the establishment of The American University of Afghanistan was granted on July 26, 2004 by the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education, under Article 46, Chapter 2 of the new Afghan Constitution and Article 445 of the Civil Code. A feasibility study was initiated by the Coordinating Council of International Universities, based in the United States, to recommend an institutional framework.[1]

In December 2004, the inaugural meeting of the Board of Trustees convened in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where Dr. Fayez was elected president pro tempore, serving in this capacity until April 2007, when he was named “founder” by the new president. He continues to lobby the Afghan government on the university's behalf, serves as an adviser to the current president, and maintains an office on campus.

In March 2005, then United States First Lady (and former teacher) Laura Bush visited the site and announced a substantial grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to launch the institution.[2] USAID continues to be the primary financial backer of the organization as it pursues sources of private funding.

The first students of the American University of Afghanistan enrolled in March 2006. They began with classes to improve their English language and study skills. The university that September began offering its first credit-bearing undergraduate courses. In 2006 the Professional Development Institute was also launched, providing adult professional courses and adult professional level programs.

On June 8, 2008, Mrs. Bush announced an additional $40 million (USD) in funding for the subsequent five years. Funding will cover more than half of the university's operating expenses during that period, leaving the university to pursue private funding for the remainder of its operating expenses and for the development of its new campus.

The university held its first commencement ceremony on May 26, 2011, awarding undergraduate degrees to 32 graduates. It held its fourth, and largest, graduation on December 5, 2014, where 180 undergraduate and graduate students graduated. On May 22, 2015, the university held its sixth commencement ceremony, honoring the class of 2015, at the university’s International campus. The highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of the Doctorate of Humane Letters Honorary Degree to distinguished guest H.E. Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, who also delivered the commencement address. Currently, more than 2,000 full and part-time students from all 34 provinces of Afghanistan are now enrolled in the university, including 1,190 students in undergraduate and graduate program, and 950 students in certification courses. About 35.9% of students for Spring 2015 are women, and more than 85% of the students receive financial assistance.[3] In an interview with Film Annex, Dr. C. Michael Smith, former President of the American University of Afghanistan stated that for the 2012-13 school year over 50% of the entering students were women.[4]

2014 Taliban attack

Two employees were killed as a result of a Taliban gun and bomb attack on a popular restaurant in Kabul where the employees were dining in January 2014.[5][6] Some 21 people reportedly died in the attack.

Lexie Kamerman, 27, of Chicago, was one of the American University employees killed in the 2014 attack in Kabul.[7]


August 7

An American and Australian professor were kidnapped on 7 August 2016, by men dressed in Afghan National Police uniforms. [8] American special forces later failed in an operation to try and rescue them.[9]

August 24

On the evening of August 24, 2016, two gunmen opened fire and detonated explosives on campus killing eight university students, three policemen, three security guards at the university, two university professors, and a guard from a neighboring school. Fraidoon Obaidi, chief of Kabul police's criminal investigation department, said police were able to kill the attackers. No group has yet to claim responsibility. [10]


All programs are conducted entirely in English. The university runs on the U.S. semester system with the academic year starting in August, and in other respects also operates in the style of American universities.

The Graduate Degree Program

AUAF in fall 2011 began its first graduate program, offering the master of business administration degree. This program builds on the success of the university's undergraduate business program, which is the most popular major among AUAF students. A total of 29 students were admitted in the first MBA class. The program is offered with a world-class curriculum taught by internationally qualified faculty with expertise in global business practices. It is now offering students an opportunity to pursue an optional bi-annual concentration program in Finance or Management. This special addition to the core curriculum gives students a unique opportunity to experience an enriched MBA program and gain additional knowledge. The program comprises 14 credit courses that provide a comprehensive view of general business management. Classes are admitted on a cohort basis. Each cohort progresses through an established sequence of courses that first develop the concepts, tools, and techniques used in “best-practices” organizations. The MBA program begins each fall. The first cohort graduated in May 2013. On May 22, 2015 a total of 59 students graduated from MBA. Masters of Arts in Education program was launched at AUAF in March 2014. It was a collaborative effort with Afghan Ministry of Education Teacher Training Directorate, and with funding from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) and the World Bank. On April 17, 2015, AUAF held the graduation ceremony for the inaugural cohort of students in this program. The program included 318 students (23% female), representing all of the country's 34 provinces.

The Undergraduate Degree Program

The American University of Afghanistan currently offers four-year undergraduate degree programs in business administration with concentrations in management, accounting, finance and marketing, information technology and computer science, and political science and public administration. Through required general studies in their first two years of undergraduate study, all students acquire knowledge in English composition, mathematics, the natural sciences, arts and humanities, and the social sciences. The department of Business provides students with theories and concepts related to international, world-class business practices, and seeks to graduate students who will be competitive in domestic and international firms. Students gain in-depth knowledge of information systems, software design, development and scientific approaches in ITCS. A combination of political science and public administration exposes students to the subfields of political science in addition to field of public administration. The law program provides in-depth exposure to all major areas of law. Graduates will be qualified to enter the court system, private legal practice, government and business. To graduate from the Undergraduate Program, students must complete a total of 120 credits, from both General Education and Major-specific requirements. AUAF held its sixth commencement ceremony of class 2015, on May 22, 2015.

In fall 2008, Stanford Law School's Afghanistan Legal Education Project was launched at the university. It provides introductory legal training that features the first new text in decades dedicated to the legal system in Afghanistan. In September 2012, AUAF and Stanford University received a $7.2 million grant for this program from the US State Department.[11]

The Professional Development Institute

The American University of Afghanistan’s Professional Development Institute was established in 2006 to meet the training needs of professionals in Afghanistan and the region. It offers an array of high-impact, high-value training courses, workshops, and seminars to professionals from private sector, government, and non-governmental organizations working in Afghanistan and the region. PDI’s specialized, non-degree courses are designed to improve both language and workplace skills, including management and leadership training. PDI offers a broad range of training and education courses throughout Afghanistan to private business, non-profit organizations, NGOs, government agencies and individuals. The institute draws on the expertise of the world-class faculty at the American university of Afghanistan and others to provide courses tailored to specific needs as well as courses offered on an open enrollment basis. The English Language Center within the institute provides a comprehensive range of English language training for non-native speakers. PDI administers short-term courses in accounting, finance, project management, human resources management, and information technologies. The Business unit now offers training and exam prep courses in ACCA and FIA. The institute is the only ACCA golden member in Afghanistan. The IT program offers a variety of technology training: Cisco, Comp TIA, ICDL, Microsoft, Oracle, and Redhat among others.

The PDI currently has four regional centers in Heart, Kandahar, and Balkh and Nangarhar provinces. The Centers are fully equipped with state of art facilities.


The overall governance and management of AUAF is overseen by the Board of Trustees. The board has fiduciary responsibility for the university and makes all policy decisions to achieve its vision and mission. The board consists of leading members of the academic, business, and political communities in Afghanistan and the United States.

The president is responsible for implementing the policies of the board and for the overall administration of the university.

The first president of the university was president pro tempore Sharif Fayez, Afghanistan's Minister of Higher Education from 2002 to 2004. In January 2015, Dr. Mark A. English assumed leadership of the university as President. Dr. C. Michael Smith stepped down after nearly six years of exceptional service.[12] The university's provost is Dr. Timor Saffary.[13]


The campus of the American University of Afghanistan is located on Darulaman Road in Kabul, Afghanistan. The current campus operates on the site of the former American International School of Kabul. A large tract of land immediately across the road from the current campus, and running south to the Dar-ul-Amman Palace is currently being developed for campus expansion.

Principal academic buildings on the campus are the Azizi Building, which houses classrooms and faculty offices; the Bayat Building, which houses administration offices and classrooms; and the Multi Purpose Academic Building, which houses the Bernice Nachman Marlowe Library, science and computer labs, and classrooms. This building also contains the Abdul Madjid Zabuli real-presence videoconferencing system. Other buildings on campus include the Michael Bayat Gymnasium, the Faculty Office Buildings, two Masjids (for men and women), Yummy fast food, and the AUAF Cafeteria.

International Center for Afghan Women's Economic Development

The International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development (ICAWED) also known as the Women's Center, a $5 million, state-of-the-art facility designed coordinate and incorporate women in Afghanistan’s economy. The Women’s Center is a pioneering institution dedicated to advancing the role of women in Afghanistan’s economy, located at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul. ICAWED was established in 2013 with the aim to empower women in the economic sector and with the belief that women in Afghanistan hold the key to unlocking new economic growth and opportunity. The Women’s Center’s mission is to promote, collaborate, connect, and catalyze so that the idea of empowering women through economic development continues to become a reality to secure the region’s future.

Business Innovation Hub

Business Innovation Hub (BIH) was founded in November 2013 as an initiative of the American University of Afghanistan. BIH is located at the International campus of AUAF. BIH is a business accelerator that provides a variety of business and transaction advisory services designed to help Afghan businesses in all sectors to reach their full potential. BIH is staffed by a team of Afghan and international consultants who have extensive local and international business experience.


  1. Archived January 25, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. Archived February 16, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. "AUAF Achieves Record Enrollment » American University of Afghanistan". Retrieved 2014-02-12.
  4. "Dr. C. Michael Smith on Education and Women Empowerment in Afghanistan". 2013-03-14. Retrieved 2014-02-12.
  5. Manila Bulletin, (19 January 2014) "IMF, UN Officials among 21 Killed in Kabul Suicide Attack"
  6. Seiff, Kevin, Washington Post, Washington, D.C. (12 March 2014) "Swedish Journalist Shot Dead in Kabul"
  7. Associated Press (19 January 2014) "Chicagoan killed in Kabul 'sought a better world'"
  8. Khaama Press, American and Australian University Professors Kidnapped From Kabul
  10. CNN, Eliott C. McLaughlin, Ralph Ellis and AnneClaire Stapleton. "Kabul siege: 12 killed in attack on American University". CNN. Retrieved 2016-08-25.
  11. "AUAF and Stanford Receive $7.2 Million Grant » American University of Afghanistan". Archived from the original on 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2014-02-12.
  12. Labi, Aisha (2010-02-14). "In a War-Torn Land, a President Works to Make His University an Oasis - People - The Chronicle of Higher Education". Retrieved 2014-02-12.

External links

Coordinates: 34°31′04″N 69°07′41″E / 34.5178°N 69.1281°E / 34.5178; 69.1281

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