Lack of donors scuppers Afghan women's project

August 9, 2002

A radical initiative to establish an Afghan women's university to train teachers and medical personnel has failed to win the necessary backing.

The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (Rawa) had confidently expected substantial financial support when it decided to launch its own university last year, given the near-universal outrage about the Taliban's policies and sympathy for the world's most oppressed female population.

It was disappointed. Despite some earlier contributions from a few high-profile American sympathisers, a November seminar at Oxford University on Rawa's university scheme only attracted an audience of four.

So the refugees are looking at distance-learning solutions. A British professional organisation has long offered non-degree courses in business-related subjects. Study materials for the entire course can be printed out from CDs for less than £50.

By attending 15 hours of lectures a week a student can complete the three levels in less than three years. To upgrade to degree level, the student can transfer to the final semester of the penultimate year at several UK or US residential universities.

Alternatively, and more relevant to refugees, the diploma and advanced diploma can be assessed by a US credit evaluation authority and the result passed to one of three accredited US universities that award associate and bachelor degrees entirely on the basis of completion of 60 and 120 credit points, respectively, obtained elsewhere.

This relatively inexpensive method of acquiring internationally recognised tertiary qualifications is understandably attractive to students in politically unstable areas. The London-based Afghan Academy and exiled Burmese groups have already shown interest in the scheme.

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