The Afghanistan higher education leadership is part of the British Council’s Internationalising Higher Education Programme.  

The programme, known formally as Partners in Academic Learning, and informally as PAL, aims to significantly strengthen academic and research links between higher education institutions (HEIs) in the UK and Afghanistan to develop their leadership and management capabilities and their experience of the international higher education context.

To date, four major projects have taken place as part of the programme in Afghanistan. You can learn about these below. 


Find out more about the first PAL project in Afghanistan

PAL 1 (2011-12)

This project involved twenty-five Afghan academics and administrators in management positions from nine state universities, and from units within the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), developing their leadership skills through working on development projects in their workplace.  

The ultimate goal of the project was to help prepare them to be the next generation of effective, top-level higher education leaders in Afghanistan.

Participants had a variety of roles, with some being heads of departments in the universities or heads of units in the Ministry, others being vice-chancellors and chancellors, and some having more administrative roles.  What they had in common was being passionate about developing themselves as effective and influential leaders.

The project was designed to assist them with this, through the support of tutorials and mentoring. They were guided by eight mentors from the UK higher education sector, mainly via internet communication.  

The programme ended in December 2012 but several Afghan participants are still in contact with their mentors in the UK.

Comments from participants

“As I have a partner with an engineering background and experience of working in Afghanistan, I really learned and (continue) learning from him. He is supporting us in building our capacity in terms of managerial and leadership skill.”  (Mohammad Qaasim, Project Manager, Balkh University)

"The UK Partner, was a good mentor through 2011 until now to discuss some of (the challenges) with.” (Farid Ahmad Momand, Director Engineering Centre, Kabul University)

“...Communicating my issue or problem with my UK partner helped me to find ways to tackle (it) and gradually succeed in my goal. The good thing is, he never imposed what I should do, instead, he encourages me to think about the issue and come up with ways to address the problem. He encourages me to act more independently.” (Javid Mussawy, VC Academic Affairs, Baghlan University)

Find out more about our PAL 2 project

PAL 2 (2013-14)

This project, launched in April 2013, is called the International Leadership Development Programme in the UK and PAL 2 in Afghanistan.  It involves eight Afghan academics who are heads or members of Quality Assurance Committees in six Afghan universities and the Ministry of Higher Education itself.

The project provides an innovative approach to supporting institutional and leadership development and international collaboration. It aims to support the development of Quality Assurance (QA) processes and capabilities in higher education in Afghanistan.


  • To build on the progress made through the accreditation process over the past two years
  • To support six leading Afghan universities to develop and embed robust QA processes
  • To support the six participating universities to move towards Centre of Excellence status in QA (CEQA)

People and organisations involved:

The British Council is being greatly helped in the delivery of the PAL project by management and leadership consultant Hank Williams, as Programme Manager, and by Dr Victoria Lindsay, Director of Quality Development at The Quality Assurance Agency in the UK.

The Afghan participants of the project are from the following organisations:

  • Kabul University, Kabul Medical University, Kandahar University, Balkh University, Herat University and Nangarhar University
  • The Ministry of Higher Education – Quality Assurance Directorate

The UK-based (non-Afghan) participants are from:

  • The Higher Education Academy
  • The Universities of London
  • University of Southampton
  • Institute of Education
  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Expected outcomes 

For Afghan participants the main outcomes will be: 

  • Development of administrative and academic practice and policy in the HE sector
  • Enhancement of internationalisation, networking and partnership
  • Development of QA committees at the six selected universities and MoHE to enable the universities to meet the criteria set by MoHE for accreditation as a Centre of Excellence in QA
  • Development of the participants’ capability as QA peer reviewers

For UK participants, the main outcomes will be the further development of: 

  • Experience of the international HE context in developing countries
  • Understanding of the challenge in establishing core HE processes in a post-conflict country
  • Understanding of Quality Assurance frameworks and processes within an international context
  • Skills in supporting a leader to plan, facilitate and manage change in a complex operating environment
  • Skills in working remotely to support a change process within an international HE context

Progress to date

The first PAL 2 workshop for Afghan participants took place in April 2013 in Dubai.  It analysed the current scenario in Quality Assurance in Afghanistan Universities.  The way forward was also discussed. 

Following the Afghan training, a two-day training workshop was conducted for UK participants in May 2013 (and a one day workshop in September 2013) to familiarise them with the programme, share what was done with Afghan participants in the first workshop, and to review the progress and challenges.

The second training workshop for Afghan participants took place in Dubai in October 2013 to review progress to date.  Participants discussed the CEQA approval process, evidencing the CEQA and peer evaluation process, monitoring teaching improvements and individual action plans, challenges and sphere of influence, and action planning for the next six months.

A two day concluding workshop for PAL 2 took place in June 2014 in Dubai.  In the closing session, Professor Nejabi, Director of Quality Assurance, Directorate of Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE), said:

"The big achievement of the programme is that Afghan participants from Kabul, Kabul Medical, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh and Nangarhar universities are now supporting twelve of their neighbouring public universities, as well as thirteen private universities, using the QA framework and other documents designed by PAL 2 to help them do self-assessment in their HEIs and be prepared for the accreditation process".  He also said "We are grateful to British Council for their support so far and...still need their support, at least until two to three of the six universities get the status of CEQA".

British Council will initiate a formal and impartial evaluation of the PAL 2 programme.  This will provide an evidence base to evaluate the success, learnings and outcomes of the programmes to date and shape future projects should the programme be continued.

Find out more about our PAL 3 project

PAL3 (2015-17)

Centre of Excellence in Quality Assurance (CEQA)

Based on the positive outcomes of the PAL2 evaluation, the British Council has extended its support from 6 to 12 universities in PAL3 since Feb, 2015.

PAL3 raises the overall quality of Higher Education and the student experience in Afghanistan by developing Quality Assurance processes and capabilities throughout the HE Sector.

PAL3 vision is to achieve CEQA status and by so doing provide a benchmark of excellence in Quality Assurance processes, to enable other HE Institutions to develop excellence in Quality Assurance processes and to support the increase in the number of HEIs with CEQA status.

PAL3 Objectives

To generate and get institutional support for a 12 month plan for the University to meet the criteria for CEQA accreditation.

To develop the University’s Quality Assurance processes and systems so that they provide effective ways of managing and monitoring quality improvement.

To support the Quality Committees at all levels within the University to lead on the implementation of the Quality Assurance processes and systems that are being developed.

To engage academic and support staff at all levels in committing to the University’s Quality Assurance processes and systems and in contributing to ongoing quality improvement.

To embed the University’s Quality Assurance processes and systems so that they provide a sustainable means for the ongoing management of quality improvement.


The first training workshop of PAL3 took place on Feb 2015 for 12 participants from 12 universities and ministry of higher education. In this workshop:

the process for the awarding of CEQA status has been amended and later on was submitted to MoHE for approval.

A list of the documentary evidence that needs to be provided to the reviewers during the CEQA status award process has been generated. This list was then circulated to all

participants after the programme.

A new criteria was added to the Tracking Document. This relates to the review of performance at departmental level. This was then submitted to MoHE for approval.

In November 2015, MoHE, with British Council support, agreed to extend the reach of the CEQA programme to directly involve Vice

Chancellors Academic Affairs (VCAAs) from the 12 CEQA Universities identified by MoHE.

PAL3 expanded the programme to 12 Universities, developed new tools / processes, defined, developed and initiated the CEQA Status

approval process and supported neighbouring public and private Universities in zones.

Find out more about PAL 4 project

The PAL / CEQA Programme has clearly been successful in creating an infra-structure to support the development of quality assurance in Afghanistan; it has developed processes and materials that are specific to the current context in Afghanistan that are now being widely adopted in the HE Sector; it has created a platform for the sharing of best practice;  and they have supported Quality Assurance and Accreditation Department at MoHE to develop bye-laws and instructions to enable improvement in the leadership and management of quality assurance.

In November 2015, MoHE, with British Council support, agreed to extend the reach of the CEQA programme to directly involve Vice 

Chancellors Academic Affairs (VCAAs) from the 12 CEQA Universities identified by MoHE.

This group of 25 participants attended the four-day workshop from 17-20th April 2016 in Delhi.

1) The awarding process was reviewed, based on the experience of the 5 universities. As a result, the process was updated and simplified. It was also decided to increase the role of the external assessor so that they provide more support to peer reviewers at key stages in the process and are more actively involved in the forming of judgements and recommendations. A timetable for the remaining 6 public universities was agreed     

2) A review of the MoHE Accreditation Process was undertaken, with all participants being asked to reflect on their experience to date in      

respect of:

- the 12 criteria framework

- the assessment process – self- assessment; peer review; Board decision. 

Four key issues with the current framework and process were identified. Whilst it was accepted that wholesale change of the current Accreditation Process is not possible, it was recognized that there should be continuous improvement. As a result, it was agreed that a task force be established to explore ways of improving the current Framework. Hank Williams, PAL Programme Manager, will propose a structure for this improvement process.

3) Significant progress has been made on the development of a process for Programme Review, particularly at Kandahar University, but also at other CEQA Universities. This follows work done at the previous PAL3 workshop in November 2015.

Agreement was reached to further develop and embed the Programme Review process within all public universities in Afghanistan and that policy guidelines should be provided by MoHE to support this initiative.

PAL4 second training will take place from 13-15th Dec 2016 in Delhi. 

This training will provide an opportunity to bring together the key members of the quality assurance and enhancement community in Afghanistan to do the following:

- review progress of the CEQA Award timetable and the future for CEQA

- Successful universities will receive CEQA award

- receive updates from HEDP(Higher Education Development Programme) re progress across their programme

- receive updates from QAAD(Quality Assurance and Accreditation Directorate) re latest developments

- comment on the latest draft of the Accreditation framework before it is submitted to QAAD for approval.

- review the proposed Accreditation process, receiving feedback from institutions and peer reviewers who have been using it during the pilot phase 

- receive updates from IQEU Leads about the development of their role and their strategic plans

- revisit and review the policy guidelines for Programme Review

- learn from the performance review process for Deans initiated at Kandahar University.

Centre of Excellence in Quality Assurance (CEQA)

British Council’s Partners in Academic Learning (PAL) project has supported 12 universities since 2014 towards getting the status of Centre of Excellence in Quality Assurance to be able to function as a hub and support other neighbouring universities in their geographical zones to develop their Quality Assurance processes.

Quality assurance means that universities meet the minimum standards in teaching, research and administration.

PAL4 last training workshop was delivered from 13-15th Dec in Delhi and attached to that an award ceremony was organised on the evening of 14th Dec. Kandahar, Balkh, Herat, Nangarhar and Shaikh Zayed universities were announced as successful universities and they received their certificates and the trophies. The remaining 7 universities will go through the process, they will be quality reviewed by peer reviewers and their result will be announced by end of March 2017.

The deputy minister of HE, Afghanistan ambassador to India, Richard Everett, director education India, universality chancellors, vice chancellors and universality professors attended the ceremony.

“We are grateful to British Council for their support and it is now universities’ responsibility to work hard and maintain this recognition.” Said Prof. Babury, deputy minister of HE.

“CEQA status brings more responsibility to university leadership and all teaching and academic as well as administrative staff.  CEQA status for Herat University is both a great achievement and at the same time, a new beginning. A beginning for being better able in maintaining better quality in teaching and learning as well as research and services", Ali Ahmad Kaveh Herat University.

“We shouldn’t think that quality required advanced equipment and luxury buildings, we should try our best to make the best use of the current available resources". Abdul Tawab Balakarzai, Kandahar University.

Contact us to find out more about PAL in Afghanistan.