FutureLearn will offer the women in Afghanistan free access to its premium digital learning platform for the duration of the Taliban’s ban on their participation in higher education. Girls and women with internet access will be able to study short courses and expert tracks from the best of British higher education at no cost to themselves, FutureLearn announced on Thursday.
This move comes in response to the Taliban’s decision on Tuesday to announce a ban on women attending universities in Afghanistan with immediate effect. The ban has sparked international condemnation, as well as protests in the country, as it further restricts women’s education – girls have already been excluded from secondary schools since the Taliban returned to power in Kabul last year.
In a joint statement on 21st December, the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States and the High Representative of the European Union strongly condemned the Taliban’s recent decision, saying: “A stable, economically viable, and peaceful Afghanistan is only attainable and sustainable if all Afghans, including women and girls, can fully, equally, and meaningfully participate in and contribute to the country’s future and development.”
Jo Johnson, Chairman of FutureLearn, said: “For girls and women who can access the internet and afford the time, this could be a lifeline. While this is of course no silver bullet – poor connectivity, poverty and language barriers mean many women may not be able to access the material – it can nonetheless play a valuable part in enabling women in Afghanistan to assert their inalienable human right to education.”
Afghan women will be able to access over 1,200 courses on the FutureLearn platform through a free subscription. FutureLearn was set up by the Open University in 2012. Under the ownership of Global University Systems since December 2022, it today delivers courses on behalf of around a quarter of the world’s top 200 universities. Twenty-six of the top 30 UK universities are FutureLearn partners, including 21 of the 24 Russell Group.
Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, President of the Open Society Foundation, said: “The Taliban think the world has forgotten them; we mustn’t. This commendable move by FutureLearn to open up its platform to women denied their rights under this regime will play a useful part in keeping education within reach of those with an internet connection. It is a welcome sign that our commitment to fighting for human rights for all Afghans remains strong.”
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