American University of Afghanistan

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The American University of Afghanistan
پوهنتون امریکایی افغانستان
د افغانستان امريکایي پوهنتون
AUAF Non-Standard Logo 2.jpg
Established 2004
Type Independent, self-governing, not-for-profit university operating on the US liberal arts model
Chairman Fredric S. Berger, P.E.(Chair, Board of Trustees)
President Dr. Mark A. English
Provost Timor Saffary
Students 879 full-time students; 898 part-time (spring 2012)
Location Kabul, Kabul, Afghanistan
Nickname پوهنتون
Mascot Simorgh

The American University of Afghanistan (Pashto: د افغانستان امريکایي پوهنتون‎; Dari: پوهنتون امریکایی افغانستان) (AUAF) is Afghanistan’s first private, not-for-profit[citation needed] institution of higher education. Chartered in 2004, AUAF offers an MBA program, four undergraduate degree programs, an intensive English-language college preparatory program (the Foundation Studies Program), 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 48 acres (190,000 m2) in the Kart-e-Seh area of Kabul until 2103. In addition, the non-profit American University of Afghanistan corporation was chartered in the State of Delaware, U.S. 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. 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. More than 30% of the total student body is female, about 40% of incoming students for Spring 2015 are women, and more than 70% of the students receive financial assistance.[3] In an interview with Film Annex, Dr. C. Michael Smith, President of the American University of Afghanistan stated that for the 2012-13 school year over 50% of the entering students were women. [4]


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. A second cohort was admitted in the Fall 2012 semester.

The Undergraduate Degree Program

The American University of Afghanistan currently offers four-year undergraduate degree programs in business administration, information technology and computer science, political science and public administration, and communications. 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.

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. [5]

The Foundation Studies Program

The Foundation Studies Program (FSP) prepares students for the high expectations of American-style, English-only university degree programs, and also develops the high-level English language skills necessary to take on major employment positions in Afghanistan or abroad. AUAF offers instruction in English through native English-speaking instructors from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and South Asia. With satisfactory performance in the FSP, students can advance to the Undergraduate Program.

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.

In 2008 the Professional Development Institute joined with Goldman Sachs and the Thunderbird School of Global Management to implement a women's entrepreneurship training program. The program is part of a larger initiative, 10,000 Women, supported by Goldman Sachs.


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 the chief executive officer with responsibility 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. The current president is Dr. C. Michael Smith.[6] The university's provost is Dr. Dawn Dekle.[7]


The campus of the American University of Afghanistan is located on Darulaman Road in the Kart-e-Seh area of 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 in Kart-e-Seh 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 C Building, which houses the Bernice Nachman Marlowe Library, science and computer labs, and classrooms. The C building also contains a real-presence videoconferencing system that is used in collaborative classes with the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Other buildings on campus include the Bayat Gymnasium, the Faculty Office Building, the Dr. Marjorie Peace Lenn Student Affairs Building, and the AUAF Cafeteria.

Death of Employees During Taliban Attack in 2014[edit]

According to news reports, at least two employees of the American University of Afghanistan were killed as a result of a Taliban bombing and gunmen attack on a popular restaurant in Kabul where the employees were dining in January of 2014. [8] [9] Some 21 people reportedly died in the attack, mostly foreigners.

Lexie Kamerman, 27, of Chicago, was one of the American University employees killed in the 2014 attack in Kabul.[10]


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ [2][dead link]
  3. ^ "AUAF Achieves Record Enrollment » American University of Afghanistan". Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  4. ^ "Dr. C. Michael Smith, President of the American University of Afghanistan, on Education and Women Empowerment in Afghanistan". 2013-03-14. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  5. ^ "AUAF and Stanford Receive $7.2 Million Grant » American University of Afghanistan". Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ [3][dead link]
  8. ^ Manila Bulletin, (19 January 2014) "IMF, UN Officials among 21 Killed in Kabul Suicide Attack"
  9. ^ Seiff, Kevin, Washington Post, Washington, D.C. (12 March 2014) "Swedish Journalist Shot Dead in Kabul"
  10. ^ Associated Press (19 January 2014) "Chicagoan killed in Kabul 'sought a better world'"

External links[edit]

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