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The Ahfad University for Women AUW) is a private, non-sectarian university for women located in Omdurman, Sudan. Founded in 1966 by Professor Yusuf Bedri with 23 students in one department, Family Sciences, AUW now has over 5,000 students and offers a five-year Bachelor’s Degree ( Bc.S. or BA) in six undergraduate schools and a Master’s Degree in two areas.
The goal of AUW is to prepare women to assume informed leadership roles in their families, communities and the nation. AUW works to achieve this goal by offering high quality instruction with emphasis on strengthening women’s roles in national and rural development and achieving equity for women in Sudanese society.
For details of the history, philosophy and programs of AUW, select from the dropdown menu above.
Following the battle of in 1898, when the Anglo-Egyptian army decisively defeated the Sudanese nationalist forces, a young Sudanese survivor of that battle, Babiker Badri, journeyed up the Blue Nile and settled in the village of Rufu’a. There he opened a secular school, as opposed to the traditional religious schools, for boys.
Babiker was a deeply religious man and widely respected for his knowledge of the Koran. But he also had the radical idea that girls should also receive at least a minimum education so they could be more of a companion with their husbands. The fact that Babiker had thirteen daughters as well as some sons may have influenced his views. In 1904, he asked the British authorities for permission to open an elementary school for girls. Fearing a negative popular reaction because of the radical nature of this request, the British Commission of Education for Sudan denied his request. A similar request in 1906 was also denied. But Babiker was a determined man, as the British were to learn. Finally, his request was granted by Sir James Currie, Director of the Educational Department of the British administration of the Sudan at that time. In granting approval, Sir James noted that: “I would myself prefer that the government should not undertake the task (girls’ education) for some time. But…. I cannot see that any possible harm can accrue from starting something (girls’ education) here (at Rufu’a)”. Finally, in 1907, Babiker began his secular school for girls in a mud hut with nine of his own daughters and eight of those of his neighbors.
The Ahfad College for Women — 1966
From this humble beginning, the Badri family has nurtured private education in Sudan for over three generations. Babiker’s son, Yusuf, carried on his father’s work, and in 1966 established the Ahfad University College for Women in Omdurman across the Nile from Khartoum and near the site of the battle in which Babiker had fought as a young Sudanese soldier. Begun with only 23 students and a faculty of three, including Yusuf, Ahfad now has an enrollment of over 5,000 students. From the site of an original mud-brick boy’s school, Ahfad has spread to an adjacent area and is now occupying a modern, new campus.
By the time he died in 1954, Babiker was widely hailed as an educational pioneer in Sudan and accorded the honor of being addressed as Sheik Babiker. Professor Yusuf Bedri, who died in 1995, was recognized as well as a pioneer in the education of women in Sudan. His son, Dr. Gasim Badri, has continued to expand Ahfad’s curriculum and innovations in teaching.
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Full University Status — 1995
Based on the expansion of its curriculum and student body, the Sudan National Council for Higher Education granted full university status to Ahfad in 1995. The Ahfad University for Women (AUW) is the oldest and largest private university in Sudan. It may be the only private women’s university in Africa.
“Ahfad” — For Our Grandchildren
In Arabic, “Ahfad” means for “our grandchildren”. Babiker aptly and wisely chose this name for the initial Ahfad schools, which Yusuf preserved when he established the Ahfad University College for Women. Indeed, Babiker’s grandchildren are among the leaders and faculty of The Ahfad University for Women today
The Ahfad University for Women Today
Currently AUW serves approximately 4,785 students who come from all regions of the Sudan and several neighboring countries. Students are enrolled in one of six schools, which are organized along practical professional lines, rather than the traditional academic fields. These six schools are:
The goal of Ahfad University for Woman is to prepare women to assume responsible roles in their families, communities, and in the nation. In keeping with this objective “the Ahfad experience” embraces a combination of well articulated academic courses, on-the-job training, individual research, and community extension activities. This combination of activities is designed to prepare women from all parts of Sudan to become change agents in their families and communities and to assume leadership positions in society.
This vision is rooted in Sheik Babiker’s purpose in establishing his school for girls in 1907. He combined the traditional Islamic devotion to learning with his then radical idea of providing secular education in addition to religious instruction to both boys and girls. Sheik Babiker saw that educated women were essential to achieving improvements in nutrition, health, child care, community development, and for preparing both young men and women for life in the emerging urban society of Sudan.
Professor Yusuf Badri expanded on Sheik Babiker’s vision by creating significant new opportunities for higher education for Sudanese women. In one radical step, Professor Yusuf incorporated a philosophy of secular education and clear goals for educated women in a changing society on an apolitical campus. This last factor is critical because higher education institutions in Sudan have a long history of political activity which regularly keeps the campuses closed due to political protest or strikes. Ahfad students would focus on education. They could engage in religious and political actions off campus on their own time.
Commitment to world class education and preparation for leadership positions for women in a non-political environment has remained the basic purposes of AUW. In keeping with its philosophy of preparing women for modern, leadership positions, campus-based instruction is in English.
Community Outreach Programs
In addition to degree-oriented programs, AUW is committed to improving life and opportunities for families in the rural areas of Sudan. This is partly accomplished through the Rural Extension Program, fn which all AUW students must participate during their third year. As part of this program students live in rural areas and plan and participate in projects designed to impart knowledge and organization skills to women living in rural villages. The objective is to help rural women become change agents in their communities.
Ahfad also develops short term courses in rural development tailored to the needs and interests of rural communities. Rural women with leadership potential are brought to the Ahfad campus for more extensive leadership development. Special courses, lasting between three to nine months, are designed for each group of women. Trainees are awarded certificates upon completion of the courses. Instruction in these programs necessarily is in Arabic.
As a private university, AUW charges a graduated tuition based roughly on the abilities of families to pay. Wealthier families generally pay more than less affluent families. In addition, AUW gives an advantage to students who are the first in their families to attend college. Also, special efforts are made to attract students from the Darfur, southern, and eastern areas of the Sudan. Currently, about twenty percent of the AUW student body consists of students from these regions who are attending under the