14 Tajik Civil servants acquire skills in policymaking
Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 7 February 2020 - The University of Central Asia’s (UCA) Institute of Public Policy and Administration (IPPA) held a graduation ceremony on 1 February 2020 in Dushanbe for 14 civil servants from Tajikistan, who completed the Certificate Programme in Economic Policy (CPEP). This IPPA programme is conducted in partnership with the Institute of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan. CPEP engages civil servants who wish to acquire skills that are essential in advancing evidence-based policy analysis.
“The CPEP programme was very interesting and useful, and focused on the evidence and logic behind policies implemented or planned by the government,” said Ms. Takhmina Tolibi from the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Tajikistan. “When I returned to my office after class, I shared the programme’s contents with my colleagues and it always sparked discussions between us.”
The 3-month programme consisted of six modules covering key areas of economic policy: Public Finance, Labour Markets and Education, Foreign Trade, Agriculture, and Extractive Industries and Sustainable Development. Learners also wrote a policy paper on a specific issue as a capstone project, and their topics ranged from food security to tackling Tajikistan’s external debt. Programme participants came from a range of government agencies including ministries of Finance, Agriculture, Industry and New Technologies, Customs Service under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan, and the Institute of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan.
CPEP is part of a larger programme of teaching and research on ‘Pathways to Innovation’ supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the Aga Khan Foundation Canada. In March 2020, IPPA, which is part of UCA’s Graduate School of Development, will enroll a second intake of CPEP learners.
Alijon Davlatmirov: Tajik entrepreneur builds multi-purpose business
Ready to start his workday, Alijon Davlatmirov sits among broken chairs, tables, and a car in queue to be repaired. Not only is his repair business saving money for the members of his community, he is helping the environment by reducing landfill waste in the region.
Alijon, 31, left his hometown in Buni village in the Shugnan district of Tajikistan, moving to Moscow in 2005, and worked there until 2016. With a dream to start his own business, he returned to Khorog to launch a welding and car service business. The University of Central Asia’s School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE) helped make this a reality, when its Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) school offered to house his new venture.
Enthusiastic to expand his expertise, he enrolled in SPCE’s plumbing course at the TVET school in 2017, where he developed his theoretical and practical knowledge. Alijon now sees himself as a pioneer in many aspects of the plumbing sphere. “In terms of plumbing, we have started new practices that have not been done before in Khorog,” said Alijon. “For instance, before if a Thermex water heater was damaged, it would be thrown away, and replaced for around 800 Tajik somoni ($80). Now, we can repair it for 100 Tajik somoni ($10), and Khorog residents are saving money and the environment.”
Today he is also trained in metal facilities and ironwork, and is receiving many orders for metal doors, bars and gates. He sees this as an opportunity not only to continue developing and expanding his business in the future, but to help develop the local economy. “I would like our community to reach a point where we can produce materials here, rather than bringing it from elsewhere,” said Alijon. “Materials are bought from China and Dushanbe to manufacture chairs and tables, but the quality is poor. We want to do it ourselves, so that people only need to pay once for quality products, and have accessible repair services nearby.”
Outside of his business, Alijon is very keen to give back and serve his community. He has cooperated with the “Umedvor” public organisation to build street benches, bookshelves, flowerpots, as well as a mobile library. “UCA’s School of Professional and Continuing Education’s support in launching my business and expanding my skills has changed my life. I want to pay it forward, and plan to continue helping my community.”
University of Central Asia Signs Historic Partnership Agreement with University of Cambridge
The University of Central Asia (UCA) and the University of Cambridge signed a Memorandum of Understanding on February 25th 2020 to promote academic partnership, and collaborate in areas such as joint research, faculty and student exchange, as well as sharing of academic and educational material. The signing ceremony, at Cambridge’s Old Schools Building, was attended by Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Members of UCA’s Board of Trustees, the Rector and Deans of UCA, and senior representatives from Cambridge.
At the signing of the Partnership Agreement (L to R): Mr. Naguib Kheraj (UCA Trustee), Princess Zahra Aga Khan (UCA Trustee), Prof. Stephen Toope (VC, University of Cambridge), and Dr. Shamsh Kassim-Lakha (Chairman, Board of Trustees, UCA), Prof. Dr. S. Sohail H. Naqvi (Rector, UCA)
“I am delighted to sign a partnership agreement between the University of Cambridge and the University of Central Asia,” said Professor Stephen J. Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. “This will formalise our intention to explore ways of working more closely together, and fulfilling our respective missions of contributing to society. Partnerships between institutions is crucial, and that is why Cambridge strives to work in partnership with leading organisations around the world. We look forward to a productive relationship with the University of Central Asia, and with the wider Aga Khan Development Network,” he said.
The Memorandum of Understanding builds on the University of Cambridge’s centuries-old commitment to academic excellence and on the ongoing relationship with the University of Central Asia. The partnership between the two institutions is expected to benefit scholars in the form of opportunities for joint research in areas of importance to Central Asia and globally through the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
Thanking Professor Toope for his welcome remarks, Dr. Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, Chairman of UCA’s Board of Trustees, and Diplomatic Representative of the AKDN in the Kyrgyz Republic, said “It is important to recognise that the agreement we are signing today is built on the confidence emanating from the efforts of colleagues at both our institutions. These early steps have focused on the development of our Central Asian faculty, thanks to the generous and continued support of the Cambridge Trust and your Faculty of Education.”
“His Highness the Aga Khan, Chancellor of UCA, has often reminded us that there are two measures of success of any university; the careers of its graduates and the quality of research, which is carried out in the universities, and then used for the benefit of the communities it serves,” added Dr. Kassim-Lakha.
The University of Central Asia was founded in 2000 as a private, not for profit, secular university under an International Treaty signed by the Presidents of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and His Highness the Aga Khan; ratified by their respective Parliaments and registered with the United Nations. The University is a unique institution of higher education focused on the development of mountain societies, with its School of Arts and Sciences campuses in Naryn (Kyrgyzstan) and Khorog (Tajikistan), designed by award winning architect, Arata Isozaki. The Tekeli campus in Kazakhstan is currently in the planning phase. UCA’s Graduate School of Development has three research institutes and its School of Professional and Continuing Education has graduated over 150,000 learners since 2006.
Cambridge Trust and University of Central Asia renew agreement for faculty development
Helen Pennant, Director of the Cambridge Trust and Prof. Dr S. Sohail Naqvi, Rector of UCA, exchange agreements signifying the renewal of the partnership between the Cambridge Trust and the University of Central Asia.
AKDN / Anya Campbell
Strengthening Partnership (L to R): Dr. S. Sohail H. Naqvi (Rector, UCA), Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Stephen Toope, Princess Zahra Aga Khan (UCA Trustee), Dr. Shamsh Kassim-Lakha (Chairman, Board of Trustees, UCA) and Mr. Naguib Kheraj (UCA Trustee)
AKDN / Anya Campbell
“Influential universities must harness the power of strategic partnerships,” says Vice Chancellor of Cambridge, Professor Toope.
London, United Kingdom, 26 February 2020 - The Cambridge Commonwealth, European and International Trust (Cambridge Trust), and the University of Central Asia (UCA), today extended their partnership agreement to develop faculty across Central Asia for a further three years.
The agreement builds on an earlier collaboration signed in 2017, and will enable outstanding students from UCA and the surrounding regions of Central Asia, to gain a Masters or PhD degree at the University of Cambridge.
The signing ceremony, which took place at the Aga Khan Centre in London in the presence of Princess Zahra Aga Khan and the Chairman and Trustees of UCA, was attended by over 150 guests. It was preceded by a keynote address by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Stephen Toope, who spoke on the Internationalisation of Higher Education and its Role in Development. Professor Toope highlighted that the spirit of free enquiry that underpins higher education does not flourish behind closed doors, and the greatest leaps in knowledge occur when disciplinary and geographical boundaries are crossed.
“Internationalisation in higher education is of course well exemplified by the Aga Khan Development Network, and its educational agencies in Central Asia, Pakistan, and East Africa,” said Professor Toope. “Globally influential universities must harness the power of strategic partnerships. The inspirational choice of mountain regions for the three campuses of the University of Central Asia, and the generous financial support given to students who could not otherwise afford a university education, mean that the University is contributing significantly to the intellectual and economic development of the relevant regions.” He continued, “Let us never forget how our universities’ missions and our universities’ pools of talent allow us, perhaps more than any other type of institution on this planet, to create, curate, and communicate the knowledge that can help to improve the world.”
Following the keynote address, Prof. Dr. S. Sohail H. Naqvi, Rector of UCA, provided an update on the journey of UCA to establish itself as a world-class educational institution in Central Asia, conducting contextually relevant research and working with AKDN agencies to impact the quality of life of regional mountain communities. “The University of Central Asia is committed to offering high quality education to its undergraduate students, and fostering the development of qualified Central Asian faculty to deliver its programmes,” he said. “The UCA-Cambridge Scholarships provide a unique platform for exchange, and through the renewal of this agreement, we will continue making a positive impact in building capacity of educators in the region.”
Speaking on the occasion, Helen Pennant, Director of the Cambridge Trust, said “Following a decade of excellence in partnership, I am delighted to renew this valuable collaboration which will enable more talented students from Central Asia to come to Cambridge.”
“The Cambridge Trust is proud to partner with the University of Central Asia to develop their future faculty and the communities they serve," added Barbara Stocking, Acting Chair of the Cambridge Trust.
These scholarships are part of UCA’s ongoing Central Asian Faculty Development Programme (CAFDP) designed to ensure that scholars from the region are strongly represented in UCA’s faculty. Applicants must meet eligibility benchmarks of UCA, and the admissions criteria of Cambridge. This partnership between the University of Central Asia (UCA) and the Cambridge Trust builds on the quality and standing of both UCA and the University of Cambridge, to enhance the academic quality of UCA’s future faculty.
Partnering to create, curate, and communicate knowledge
The University of Central Asia (UCA) and the University of Cambridge came together to sign historic partnership agreements at ceremonies in Cambridge and London on 25 and 26 February 2020. The events in the UK were attended by Princess Zahra, along with senior leaders from UCA and the University of Cambridge.
A Memorandum of Understanding signed on 25 February at Cambridge’s Old Schools Building, will enable the two institutions to promote academic partnership, and collaborate in areas such as joint research, faculty and student exchange, as well as sharing academic and educational material.
Speaking at the event, Princess Zahra noted that Mawlana Hazar Imam, as Chancellor of UCA, was very pleased with this relationship which “he sees as seminal to helping young universities like UCA.”
Dr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, chairman of the Board of Trustees at UCA, said in Cambridge that Hazar Imam “has often reminded us that there are two measures of success of any university; the careers of its graduates and the quality of research, which is carried out in the universities, and then used for the benefit of the communities it serves.”
The renewal of a partnership agreement between the Cambridge Trust and the University of Central Asia, signed the following day at the Aga Khan Centre in London, builds on an earlier collaboration signed in 2017. The agreement will enable outstanding students from UCA and the surrounding regions of Central Asia, to gain a Masters or PhD degree at the University of Cambridge.
The ceremony in London was preceded by a keynote address by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Stephen Toope, who spoke about the internationalisation of higher education and its role in development.
“Internationalisation in higher education is of course well exemplified by the Aga Khan Development Network, and its educational agencies in Central Asia, Pakistan, and East Africa,” he said. In his address, Professor Toope highlighted that the greatest leaps in knowledge occur when disciplinary and geographical boundaries are crossed.
Also speaking on the occasion, Helen Pennant, director of the Cambridge Trust, said “Following a decade of excellence in partnership, I am delighted to renew this valuable collaboration which will enable more talented students from Central Asia to come to Cambridge.”
“The Cambridge Trust is proud to partner with the University of Central Asia to develop their future faculty and the communities they serve," added Barbara Stocking, acting chair of the Cambridge Trust.
Together, the two partnership agreements build on the University of Cambridge’s centuries-old commitment to academic excellence and on the application of knowledge for wider social good. The intention is to benefit scholars and researchers at both institutions and the agencies of AKDN globally.
“Globally influential universities must harness the power of strategic partnerships,” said Professor Toope, underlining the importance of higher education institutions in contributing to intellectual and economic development around the world.
“Let us never forget how our universities’ missions and our universities’ pools of talent allow us, perhaps more than any other type of institution on this planet, to create, curate, and communicate the knowledge that can help to improve the world.”
The University of Central Asia (UCA) and the University of Cambridge signed a historic academic partnership agreement on February 25th to collaborate in areas such as joint research, faculty and student exchange, as well as sharing of academic and educational material. Watch this video for highlights from the signing ceremony, held at Cambridge’s Old Schools Building. The partnership between the two institutions is expected to benefit scholars in the form of opportunities for joint research in areas of importance to Central Asia and globally through the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
University of Central Asia and Cambridge to promote new academic partnership
Cambridge will share resources, conduct joint research and exchange resources with the University, which was founded by an international treaty in 2000
The University of Central Asia (UCA) and the University of Cambridge have agreed to partner to promote academic cooperation, collaboration in areas of joint research, student exchange, and to share educational materials.
The signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding, which took place on February 25th in Cambridge’s Old Schools, was attended by Princess Zahra Aga Khan and senior representatives from the University, including Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope.
UCA was founded in 2000 as a private, not-for-profit, secular university under an International Treaty, which was signed by the Presidents of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and His Highness the Aga Khan, Princess Zahra's father who is also current Imam of Nizari Ismailism, meaning he is the spiritual authority to around 15 million Muslims.
The university, which has two campuses currently, in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - with another in Kazakhstan set to open in 2022 - is registered with the UN, and was supported under the sponsorship of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
“Influential universities must harness the power of strategic partnerships,” Toope said at the ceremony.
“The inspirational choice of mountain regions for the three campuses of the University of Central Asia, and the generous financial support given to students who could not otherwise afford a university education, mean that the University is contributing significantly to the intellectual and economic development of the relevant regions.”
Toope continued, “let us never forget how our universities’ missions and our universities’ pools of talent allow us, perhaps more than any other type of institution on this planet, to create, curate, and communicate the knowledge that can help to improve the world.”
UCA is focused on the social and economic development of Central Asia, particularly its mountain societies, and has sites in each of the endorsing Central Asian countries. The university’s multiple campuses are located in rural areas, with UCA hoping to be central to the economic and academic transformation of the region.
The University provides an internationally recognised standard of higher education and hopes to facilitate the preservation of the cultural heritage of the region. 81% of undergraduate students are from Central Asian countries, 51% of students are women and 70% of students come from small towns and rural areas.
Dr. Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, Chairman of UCA’s Board of Trustees, and Diplomatic Representative of the AKDN in the Kyrgyz Republic, thanked Professor Toope for his warm remarks at the signing ceremony.
“It is important to recognise that the agreement we are signing today is built on the confidence emanating from the efforts of colleagues at both our institutions. These early steps have focused on the development of our Central Asian faculty, thanks to the generous and continued support of the Cambridge Trust and your Faculty of Education.”
The Cambridge Trust has supported UCA since 2017 by financing excellent students from UCA to gain a Masters or PhD at the University of Cambridge. The Trust and UCA have extended their partnership to develop faculty across Central Asia for three more years
UCA distributes 500 care packages to vulnerable population in Naryn
Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic, 28 March 2020 - The University of Central Asia (UCA), together with volunteers and social workers, brought smiles to the faces of Naryn residents on 28 March, as families in need received care packages at their doorsteps.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UCA distributed food and medical supplies to 500 families identified by the Mayor’s office in the vulnerable category in Naryn (Kyrgyzstan). This includes masks (2,000), hand sanitizers (500 litres), antibacterial soap (1,500 bars), flour (2,500 kg), pasta (1,500 kg), and cooking oil (500 litres). This donation was made possible through a partnership between the University of Central Asia, the Aga Khan Development Network, the Aga Khan Foundation Kyrgyzstan, and the Kyrgyz Investment and Credit Bank (KICB).
“The University of Central Asia's initiative to provide food and medical supplies to families in need has won the gratitude of the people and government of Naryn,” said Nurbek Moldokadyrov, Mayor of Naryn. “We hope other NGOs will be inspired by UCA's example and provide support as well during these difficult times.”
“Although the Aga Khan Development Network is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in all areas of its operations in Kyrgyzstan, UCA is particularly focusing on the vulnerable population identified by the Mayor’s Office in Naryn,” said Prof. Dr. S. Sohail H. Naqvi, Rector of UCA. “Because Naryn has a short supply of essential items, we arranged a shipment of food and medical supplies from Bishkek.”
The University has prepared 90 beds on the campus grounds for observation zones as part of the mitigation procedures for COVID-19 spread in Kyrgyzstan. To give a boost to the local economy, UCA has also purchased mattresses, blankets, pillows and linen made by women from the rural areas of Naryn.
Zarrina Gafurova: learning to analyse TV audiences
The University of Central Asia’s (UCA) Co-operative Education Programme offers work placements to students where they apply in-class learning to real life professional experiences within their field of study across private, public and community-based sectors. This story was written by Zarrina Gafurova as part of a series of personal reflections from UCA students on their internship experiences.
My journey started with a simple desire to explore something unfamiliar and move beyond my comfort zone. And what could be more offbeat than data science for a media student, who knows how to juggle words… but numbers? This is how I ended up doing an internship in one of the leading media research companies in the world.
Nielsen Admosphere, part of the Nielsen family, is a research agency that offers a wide portfolio of products and services, such as electronic television audience measurement. It is one of the leading agencies in its field and has developed a measurement methodology that is widely used in the Czech Republic. Through the UCA co-operative programme, I had the chance to apply for an internship in the company’s headquarters in Prague. The three-month mandatory internship allows UCA students to put theory into practice. Moreover, students gain professional supervision, learn workplace ethics, obtain valuable lessons and most importantly get a chance to explore their interests, enhance their professional skills and discover new interests.
At Nielsen Admosphere, my responsibilities as an intern with a data science team included research analysis, data computation and interpretation. I was part of the TV audience measurement project that Nielsen Admosphere is currently running in Kyrgyzstan, which aims to better understand the audience’s viewing preferences.
Of course, no road comes without bumps. I had my ups and downs during the internship. In the beginning, I had a hard time using the SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) programme, understanding the logic of most of the work I was doing, and in general sinking into statistical thinking. Especially, as someone who does not have a mathematical background, I faced more difficulties than someone with good knowledge of math. Every day I learned something new. I improved my skills in Excel and learned how to work in SPSS. I practiced with data analysing, working with datasets, computing and formatting new variables, filters, weighting, custom tables, advanced functions and visualisations in Excel: lookup functions, pivot tables, conditional formatting, advanced charts and much more. I had the opportunity to work with real data and contribute to the project, which I believe was the best part of it all.
As a result, I translated eight documents from English to Russian, completed numerous research projects, worked on Lego Data, helped with TV audience measurement projects in Bulgaria and Poland, and worked daily on the Kyrgyz project.
One of the biggest reasons why I enjoyed this internship was because of the people who surrounded me. There were multiple occasions when I needed help, and there was always more than one person ready to assist and mentor me. Undoubtedly, I will miss my daily lunches with colleagues, their mathematical jokes and, of course, their boost of motivation.
My summer indeed was full of colours. I visited my dream city, Venice, walked through the streets of Milan, shopped in the malls of Dresden, partied in Berlin. And during three months, I woke up to Prague sunrises. If that wasn’t the summer of my life, then what was it?
This story was adapted from an article published on the UCA website.
Khorog, Tajikistan, 18 June 2020 - In response to an urgent appeal for medicine from the Central Regional Hospital in Khorog (Tajikistan) to treat patients suffering from Covid-19, employees of the University of Central Asia (UCA) donated medicine and related supplies.
In accepting the donation from the Covid-19 Solidarity Fund, the Chief Medical Officer of the Hospital, Davlatbekov Saidbek, spoke about the “timely humanitarian support which will help us save lives”.
Well over 100 employees have donated one or more day’s salary to a Covid-19 Solidarity Fund that provides food and medical supplies to families and hospitals in dire need as a result of the pandemic.
To help mitigate the spread of Covid-19, UCA has also set up facilities for 50 observation beds on the grounds of its Khorog campus. With rising cases of patients testing positive for Covid-19 in Khorog, and increased risk to front line health workers, UCA is also arranging personal protective equipment (PPEs) for doctors and nurses.
Favziya Shonazmieva: Modernising preschool options in rural Tajikistan
Favziya Shonazmieva, resident of Porshnev village in the Shugnan district of Tajikistan, wanted to continue working after becoming a mother. After not finding a suitable kindergarten or preschool centre in her neighbourhood for her child, she came up with the idea of establishing a modern Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre. Although Favziya had the necessary facilities to establish the centre, she did not know how to start a business, or how to run it. Determined to realise her dream, she enrolled in a business planning course offered at the University of Central Asia School of Professional and Continuing Education (UCA-SPCE) in Khorog.
“Before attending SPCE’s 6-month business planning course, I lacked knowledge and skills about running a business,” said Favziya Shonazmieva. “During this course, I learnt new concepts on financial literacy, marketing and business communications. It also strengthened my self-confidence to run my own business.” As part of the business planning course, Favziya also went to Dushanbe on an internship, where she learnt about the operational side of an existing ECD centre.
After completing the course, Favziya opened an educational centre with only three children and began a marketing campaign by printing banners and promoting her business on social media. “Knowing how to properly market my business really worked,” she said. Now, in its third year of operation, the centre has become a home to 60 children during the day, and she has employed five staff members.
“What makes SPCE a unique school, is that it does not leave you halfway,” said Favziya. “As an SPCE graduate, the School always informs us about different networking opportunities, where we are introduced to start-ups and business leaders, who share their difficulties and secrets to success.” Through regular participation in these events, Favziya received furniture donations from the Institute for Professional Development and the “Madina” non-governmental organisation. She also received equipment from the Aga Khan Foundation’s ECD programme to set up her centre.
Favziya is full of new ideas and plans to make them a reality. In the future she wants to work with retired women in her town to write fairy tales and songs about their local culture and history. She plans to use these learning materials at her centre, and wishes to share them with other children in the community.
Twentieth anniversary of the founding of the first internationally chartered university, the UCA
The University of Central Asia (UCA) was established on August 28, 2000 as a private, not for profit, secular university through an international treaty signed by the presidents of Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic, and Kazakhstan, and Mawlana Hazar Imam; ratified by the respective parliaments and registered with the United Nations. The presidents are the Patrons of the University and Mawlana Hazar Imam is the University’s Chancellor. UCA is the world’s first internationally chartered institution of higher education.
The treaty was signed in Astana, Kazakhstan, on August 31, 2000.
UCA aga khan dushanbe tajikistan
Mawlana Hazar Imam and His Excellency Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan, signed the International Treaty establishing the University of Central Asia in a ceremony in Dushanbe. Photo: AKDN / Gary Otte
Mawlana Hazar Imam and President Askar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan sign the founding Treaty in Bishkek. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte
Mawlana Hazar Imam and President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan congratulate each other and exchange signed copies of the International Treaty. Photo: AKDN / Gary Otte
Announcing a total endowment of US$15 million for the University at its inception, Mawlana Hazar Imam stated that US$5 million of this sum would be allocated for the University’s programmes in Kazakhstan.
AKDN Press Release
UCA AKDN Aga Khan
UCA’s mission is to promote the social and economic development of Central Asia, particularly its mountain communities, by offering an internationally recognised standard of higher education, and enabling the peoples of the region to preserve their rich cultural heritage as assets for the future.
Naryn Campus, Kyrgyz Republic
The Naryn campus, the first campus of the UCA, was inaugurated by Mawlana Hazar Imam and Kyrgyz Prime Minister HE Sooronbay Jeenbekov on October 19, 2016.
UCA naryn Aga Khan
Mawlana Hazar Imam and Kyrgyz Prime Minister HE Sooronbay Jeenbekov unveil the plaque to officially inaugurate the campus in Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic. Photo: AKDN / Gary Otte
“Students of world history remind us how Central Asia, a thousand years ago, “led the world” in trade and investment, in urban development, in cultural and intellectual achievement. This was the place that leading thinkers from around the known world would look to for leadership. What were the latest breakthroughs in astronomy or mathematics, in chemistry or medicine, in philosophy or music? This was the place to find out. This region is where algebra got its name, where the earth’s diameter was precisely calculated, where some of the world’s greatest poetry was penned.”
Mawlana Hazar Imam
Khorog Campus, Tajikistan
The foundation stone was laid by Mawlana Hazar Imam, President Emomali Rahmonov, and Afghanistan’s Vice-President Nematullah Shahrani on July 6, 2004
UCA central asia khorog
Mawlana Hazar Imam, Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmonov, and Afghanistan’s Vice-President Nematullah Shahrani lay the foundation stone for the Khorog Campus. Photo: AKDN / Gary Otte
The campus was formally inaugurated on September 14, 2018 by Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmonov.
UCA central asia khorog takijistan
President Emomali Rahmon unveiling the plaque inaugurating the Khorog Campus. Photo: The.Ismaili/UCA
UCA khorog university Aga Khan
UCA Khorog Campus. Photo: AKDN
Tekeli Campus, Khazakhstan – expected to open in 2022
UCA Tekeli campus, Kazakhstan
The University also has three main schools: the School of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Development, and the School of Professional and Continuing Education.
AKDN Press Release
UCA – Birth of a Development University
About the University of Central Asia
School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE)
Partnership with University of Cambridge
University of Central Asia offers tools for success
Finding a good job often requires a command of the English language and computer literacy. Suhaima, who was born in Mazar-i-Sharif in the Balkh province of Afghanistan and now lives in Faizabad with her family, discovered these requirements when finishing university and entering the labour market.
In response, she enrolled in English courses at University of Central Asia (UCA)’s School for Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE) and completed the International Computer Driving License (ICDL) certification in 2018.
“With the help of SPCE, I improved my English proficiency, and gained new computer skills. To put my learning into practice, I decided to start a business teaching computer courses in my community. I have now recruited other SPCE graduates, and plan to further expand the business,” said Suhaima. “I would like to express my gratitude to UCA’s SPCE for offering various programmes and courses that are developing the potential of youth and providing new opportunities. I hope more SPCE centres will be opened throughout Afghanistan in the future.”
Takhmina Zhumakova, from Naryn (Kyrgyz Republic) and an undergraduate student at University of Central Asia's School of Arts and Sciences, took another path. She did an internship with UCA’s Education Improvement Programme (EIP) as part of her academic programme during the Summer of 2020.
During the internship, she supported the EIP team in the development of Grade 7-11 teaching materials and academic resources for public schools in the Kyrgyz Republic. She also assisted in creating video training guides in three languages on how to adjust to online learning, and to use Google Classroom.
“Through my work with EIP, I gained valuable experience in managing information, identifying reliable sources, and working remotely with teams. I also helped prepare videos and presentations for students learning science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” said Takhmina. “I firmly believe that my contribution at EIP will make positive changes in the lives of students, as well as contribute towards the development of the Kyrgyz Republic’s education system.”
Courses in English, Information Technology and the Cashier/Financial Assistant programme were essential to landing a job for Rohullah Mowahid, a graduate of UCA's SPCE in Faizabad (Afghanistan). Currently working as a Procurement Manager at the Ministry of Higher Education, his courses at SPCE gave him the essential skills he needed after he graduated from the Faculty of Economics at Badakhshan University.
“SPCE’s programmes were invaluable in providing skills that enabled me to get a great job. At least 80% of my success is thanks to SPCE. I improved my English language proficiency, upgraded my computer literacy skills and learnt how to do complex calculations, all of which I am applying in my work,” said Rohullah. “I recommend SPCE to anyone looking for a better job to enhance their career.”
An insight into student life at the University of Central Asia
Surrounded by the Pamir mountains in the heart of Khorog, Tajikistan, students like Jonbegim Mukhtor have the opportunity to participate in a university experience like no other.
Jonbegim Mukhtor is a final-year student at UCA.
Jonbegim Mukhtor is a final-year student at the University of Central Asia (UCA). Born and raised in the remote and mountainous town of Khorog, in Tajikistan, she has been in schooling operated by AKDN since high school, when she attended the Aga Khan Lyceum.
Studying economics at UCA, Jonbegim has always loved math. “It was my favorite subject at school, so I wanted to study something related to that.”
The University of Central Asia is a private, not for profit, secular university, founded by the Presidents of the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, and Mawlana Hazar Imam. The university is a part of a larger partnership and commitment with the Aga Khan Development Network.
The university is divided into three schools: the Undergraduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Development, and the School of Professional and Continuing Education. Since it is a relatively new school in Jonbegim’s region, she was particularly attracted to the international programme based in her hometown.
“I was very eager to experience an international environment and study with a diverse group of students coming from different parts of the world,” said Jonbegim.
In addition to the international programme, her student life is distinctive. With the school being relatively new in comparison to most universities, there are only 25 students in each cohort per campus.
“This feels as if we are still at high school where we are taken very good care of. Moreover, at UCA we are living as one big family with very tight connections to each other, which makes this experience very unique for me,” she said.
Naryn, Khorog, and Tekeli, the cities in which the three campuses are located, are both ecologically and culturally rich, being located along the Silk Road, where trade and transportation historically flourished. Additionally, its unique location in smaller cities and rural communities adds to the school’s appeal.
“Its mission of contributing to the economic and social development of the mountainous regions in Central Asia attracted me the most,” Jonbegim added. She attends school at the Khorog campus, in the eastern part of Tajikistan among the Pamir mountains.
In this distinctive setting, students like Mukhtor have an opportunity like no other to experience the beauty of their region, and the tight-knitted nature of a one-of-a kind-campus community.
University of Central Asia to celebrate first graduating class during virtual ceremony
Mawlana Hazar Imam will deliver a virtual address at the University of Central Asia’s first-ever convocation on 19 June. The ceremony will honour the first class of undergraduate students at the School of Arts and Sciences and will be livestreamed from the University campuses in Khorog, Tajikistan and Naryn, Kyrgyzstan.
The Governors of Naryn and Gorno Badakhshan will be in attendance along with the Ministers of Education for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
The University of Central Asia (UCA) was founded in 2000 as a private, not for profit, secular university through an International Treaty signed by Mawlana Hazar Imam, along with the Presidents of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. The university is also officially registered with the United Nations.
UCA’s mission is to promote the social and economic development of Central Asia, particularly its mountain communities, by offering an internationally-recognised standard of higher education, and enabling the people of the region to preserve their rich cultural heritage as assets for the future. The University brings with it the commitment and partnership of the broader Aga Khan Development Network.
The University also has three main schools: the School of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Development, and the School of Professional and Continuing Education.
At the inauguration ceremony of the Khorog campus in 2018, Board of Trustees Chairman Dr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha spoke about the School of Arts and Sciences, which will see its first class of students graduate during the virtual ceremony.
“Students receive a broad-based education in the tradition of liberal arts, that is, a general education that opens their minds to the humanities, arts and sciences before specializing in their chosen disciplines. Here in Khorog, all will learn the beauty of the Tajik language, study the rich history of the Somoni Empire, and absorb the culture of Tajikistan,” he said.
UCA has established three campuses away from major urban centres, and attracts two-thirds of its students from secondary cities, small villages, and rural areas — evenly split between male and female. The first residential campus was built in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan in 2016; the second campus, in Khorog, in 2017; while the third campus is expected to open in Tekeli, Kazakhstan in the coming years.
In a TV interview in May 2009, Mawlana Hazar Imam spoke about the importance of creating a university for the high mountain population of Central Asia.
“My experience, at least, is that very often inequities in society are due to absence of access to educational opportunities,” he said. “The quality of life in high mountain areas is very important both for my own community and for other populations. If you take the Central Asian area we’re working in, there are about 25 million people who are dependent on these mountain environments. Well, believe it or not there is not one university in the world today that is specialised on educating high mountain populations. And that is the reason for which this University of Central Asia was created.”
UCA was founded in 2000 by His Highness the Aga Khan and the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan. Aiming to promote the social and economic development of Central Asia, the university also helps preserves the region’s rich cultural traditions and heritages as assets for the future.
Nestled in a rural mountain community, UCA immerses students in a fully residential campus environment. This encourages students from across Central Asia to exchange ideas and learn from each other, promoting diversity and pluralism.
UCA IN NUMBERS
272: undergraduate students at UCA's Naryn and Khorog campuses
51: the percentage of students who are women
252: hectares of land gifted by the Kyrgyz government for the construction of UCA's Khorog campus
2,200: the elevation of UCA's Khorog campus in metres
70: the percentage of students from small towns and rural areas
9: countries represented in UCA's undergraduate student body
81: the percentage of undergraduate students from Central Asian countries
Many of the university’s undergraduate programs were made possible through academic partnerships with Canadian institutions. A partnership with Seneca College in Toronto produced the Preparatory Programme, a cross-disciplinary foundational one-year program for students of all disciplines. Partnerships with the University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, and the University of Victoria also paved the way for UCA’s Computer Science, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Cooperative Education programs.
We’re celebrating UCA’s inaugural undergraduate class by featuring stories from students and staff about their experiences.
Meet Jyldyz, a graduate of the School of Communications and Media Studies.
Read about her student experience.
Mawlana Hazar Imam expresses confidence in UCA graduates to fulfil ‘special responsibility’
Against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, the University of Central Asia celebrated the achievements of its inaugural cohort of graduates: the Class of 2021. A live-streamed convocation brought together students, family members, faculty, and well-wishers across multiple countries and time zones around the world.
In an historic occasion, graduands and faculty dressed in UCA’s academic regalia took part in convocation processions in the picturesque landscapes of Khorog, Tajikistan and Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, shortly before observing the national anthems of UCA’s founding countries along with the Nashid al-Imamah.
Delivering the Chancellor’s address, Mawlana Hazar Imam spoke of the strong bonds forged by UCA across frontiers, and the resulting potential to address the challenges of development in the region.
“Today’s graduation event, held simultaneously in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, is an example of the power of education and international cooperation. It is a power that can change people’s lives.”
Historically, this part of the world is well-known for the renowned Silk Route — a trading passage that once connected China with the Mediterranean, via the high mountains of Central Asia.
Groups of merchants and pilgrims travelled back and forth across the route to trade silks, spices, and silver. This borderless exchange of goods led to an exchange of ideas and knowledge, and the region soon became a hub of invention and innovation.
“Students of world history remind us how Central Asia, a thousand years ago, led the world in cultural and intellectual achievements,” Hazar Imam said. “This region is where medicine was founded, where algebra got its name, where the Earth’s diameter was precisely calculated, where some of the world’s greatest poetry was penned.”
“This happened because the societies were open to new ideas, open to change, open to scholars and people from many backgrounds. That kind of openness can again unlock the doors to the future, and allows us to take on the great questions of our time and place.”
Following years of investment in cross-border research and teaching, UCA is now well positioned to unlock these doors and address these great questions. The University employs an open-access philosophy, in which students are accepted solely on merit. The vast majority receive financial support. This means that 70 per cent of students come from rural areas and small towns, and 50 per cent are women.
As part of the ceremony, President of the Kyrgyz Republic Mr Sadyr Japarov delivered a congratulatory address to graduands.
“The future of any country depends on its intellectuals and educated youth,” he said, before declaring that in the region of Central Asia “the process of intellectualisation is currently underway.”
The University’s campuses play a vital role in this process, nurturing small communities of responsible citizens and future leaders. In his remarks, Chairman of the board of trustees Shamsh Kassim-Lakha focussed on these communities and their potential to positively transform the towns of Naryn, Khorog, and Tekeli.
“Our long-term joint vision led by the town municipalities is to see these communities transformed into thriving University Towns where economic, social, and cultural opportunities abound for everyone,” he said.
“Together we are working to enhance the quality of life of the citizens through supporting the master planning of the towns and through provision of health and educational facilities, public parks and creating employment opportunities.”
UCA rector Professor Sohail H Naqvi paid special tribute to the resilience of students, who in recent months have been tested not only academically but also emotionally, due to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“You are pioneers, adventurers, leaders without peers and this region’s hope for the future,”' he said. “The beautiful environments of this campus, the phenomenal work of the faculty, the support of all your family and peers; it has all been about your development.”
Class valedictorian Karlygash Kussainovav thanked the Chancellor and University management for their vision and “for the wisdom of creating a World-Class University in these remote Central Asian mountains.”
She also thanked the faculty, student life team, family members, and friends for their support throughout the journey, helping them grow from timid teenagers to courageous and confident adults.
“There were times we struggled academically, personally, and recently with the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said, sporting UCA’s new blue and gold cap and gown. “But we're still standing here, ready for the next step. And to my classmates, as we move to climb new mountains, I wish that we continue with curiosity, kindness, and bravery.”
Looking ahead, the mountainous region of Central Asia and its population continues to face a number of complex challenges, including climate change, poverty alleviation, economic development, and technological advancement.
Mawlana Hazar Imam expressed his confidence in UCA’s class of 2021 to meet these challenges head on.
“As the first graduates you will always have a special place in the history of the University. As you go forward, you will be UCA’s ambassadors, our envoys and representatives. This is a special responsibility that I am certain you will be able to fulfil admirably.”
This speech was delivered virtually and live web-casted during the ceremony.
The first Convocation of the University of Central Asia
SPEECH DELIVERED BY: His Highness the Aga Khan
LOCATION: Kyrgyz Republic (19 June 2021)
Your Excellency President Rahmon
Your Excellency President Japarov
Chairman Dr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha and Members of the Board of Trustees
Rector, Deans, Faculty and Staff of the University
Parents, supporters, and distinguished guests and Graduates
It is truly a genuine pleasure for me to celebrate this milestone moment with you – the graduation of the first class of students from the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Central Asia. This event is also a very significant moment in my own life as it represents the culmination of more than two decades of effort in conceptualising, planning and building this institution with the valuable support of Patrons, Presidents and administrations of the Founding States.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees and everyone at UCA, I extend deep appreciation to the Patrons of the University, the Presidents of the Republic of Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and the Republic of Kazakhstan and their administrations for their support and for creating an enabling environment for the University to thrive and achieve its mission and goals.
It was only in 2016 and 2017 that the campuses in Naryn and Khorog welcomed their students. And here we stand today to celebrate each of you graduates; and your parents and families who contributed to your success. Each one of you is here today through your sustained hard work. You needed to develop certain qualities of character and mind to face the challenges of university learning. With these qualities, you are now empowered to seek out new opportunities with confidence. As the first graduates you will always have a special place in the history of the University. As you go forward, you will be UCA's ambassadors, our envoys and representatives. This is a special responsibility that I am certain you will be able to fulfill admirably.
I offer my warmest congratulations to UCA's faculty, management, staff, Trustees and the very generous donors all of whose contributions made it possible to establish quality academic programmes and beautiful residential campuses. This was not an easy task, and UCA had to navigate uncharted waters. This new university demonstrated enormous resilience in rising to the challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and capably re-configured the institution to remote teaching. During this period, UCA succeeded in receiving accreditation by educational authorities in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, putting the institution on a solid academic footing.
Today's event brings back some wonderful memories. Twenty-one years ago, I joined the Presidents of the Founding States in signing an extraordinary International Treaty that brought three countries together to establish the University of Central Asia as a single, multi-campus, regional institution of higher learning. Today's graduation event, held simultaneously in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, is an example of the power of education and international cooperation. It is a power that can change people’s lives. It has always been the Founders’ hope that this power will come through the efforts of the class of 2021 and those which will follow, and from the research and civic engagement of the faculty.
In partnership with the Founding States, we established a type of institution that is new to Central Asia and the larger world. Planning for an original concept, and making it operational, was a complex process that involved purposeful architectural design, construction, detailed academic planning, training and recruiting faculty. All of this was accomplished in a decade, which is a fast-forward speed for most universities. The many who worked on the UCA project in the past and the University community today can take pride in this achievement and have our warmest appreciation.
However, a measure of a university's success is the quality of the education it delivers and the careers of its graduates. This starts with the recruitment of students, for without good students, a university will never achieve excellence. A key ingredient in this story has been our open-access philosophy, enabling us to enrol students on merit alone, with the vast majority of students receiving financial support. The result is that 70 percent of our students are from small towns and rural areas, and half are women. They gained admission through a transparent and rigorous selection process and completed a demanding course of study with rigorous standards of academic integrity.
Research is the other measure of a university's success. UCA defines itself as a “research-oriented” university. Central Asia and its mountain communities face many challenges, including the impacts of climate change, building reliant communities, alleviating poverty through quality economic growth and advancing technological innovation. These problems are analytically complex, and there are no easy solutions. The fundamental goal is to achieve levels of excellence in research, measured by global standards to bring genuine value to those we are committed to educating.
As we celebrate the first steps of a new university, we should also recall the past. Students of world history remind us how Central Asia, a thousand years ago, led the world in cultural and intellectual achievements. This region is where medicine was founded, where algebra got its name, where the earth's diameter was precisely calculated, where some of the world's greatest poetry was penned. This happened because the societies were open to new ideas, open to change, open to scholars and people from many backgrounds. That kind of openness can again unlock the doors to the future, and allows us to take on the great questions of our time and place.
It is in the context of this illustrious historical background that the Trustees and I see the evolution of scholarship at this University. We accept that the revival of this tradition of high quality and relevant research in Central Asia will need to be carefully charted and will require the requisite human and material resources over an extended period of time.
UCA has made a good start. Research output by the faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences has markedly increased. And, of course, the Graduate School of Development, with its institutes, has achieved a significant presence on the Central Asian knowledge landscape and established international collaborations. The School is now collaborating with its sister institution, the Aga Khan University, in new research on maternal and child health and nutrition. I urge the faculty and students to give utmost attention to enhance the current learning and create new knowledge through research, which is a most important vector for improving the quality of life of those who live in these mountain ranges.
UCA is also a development university. And an essential aspect of this mission is its relationship with the host communities. The University is partnering with the local governments and its sister agencies in the Aga Khan Development Network to develop the host mountain towns into vibrant university communities and transform them by bringing new technology, innovation and entrepreneurship hubs. Over the coming decades, the University will expand as new areas of teaching and research emerge, and the towns that are home to UCA campuses will benefit from the new economic opportunities and attain a better quality of life.
Let me conclude by expressing again, to all of you, the deep sense of joy and gratitude I feel as we celebrate this historic day. To the graduates, I wish you a bright future. We look forward to working together with the Founding States, the Board of Trustees, the faculty and now the alumni towards the challenging and promising future of this University.
University of Central Asia student Payrov Dehqonov interned at the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, and helped to analyse data in order to better prepare communities in Tajikistan that are at high-risk of being impacted by natural disasters.
Based in Khorog, 21-year-old Payrov is a third-year University of Central Asia (UCA) student majoring in Earth and Environment Science. He interned with the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) during the winter of 2020 in the Operational Research and Technical Department, and worked on mapping out the effects of natural disasters in his region.
While working at AKAH, Payrov learned of the community’s work and recognised the effect it could potentially have on his own community.
“I hope this kind of organisation will also one day be in my community to prepare people that are living in high-risk areas to manage disasters regarding preparedness, response, and understanding of natural hazards,” he said.
The work he did during the course of his internship consisted of working with and analysing data.
“I worked on a comparison of reports from Geographic Information Systems (GIS) engineers, sociologists, and geologists,” Payrov said.
ArcGIS is an online software programme which uses maps and geographic information to create analysis. Payrov used the software to conduct the project he undertook that winter.
“I also started a project to translate a map of the natural hazards of various villages of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province from Russian and Tajik into English.”
His tasks included comparing household numbers, populations, and households that are at risk of natural hazards. He was able to find many similarities between the location of the households, the number of natural disasters in those regions, and the number of households affected by natural disasters.
"I learned how to create maps for natural hazards, as well as exporting the maps to other sources such as jpg, shapefile, and others. Furthermore, I developed my critical thinking through data analysis in Excel sheets,” Payrov said.
The data he worked on is now being used to help communities in Tajikistan at risk of natural disasters. With this data, AKAH can work on better preparing the community for unexpected events, and assist them with understanding the risks they face, making them better prepared to respond when they occur.
AKAH is a part of the greater Aga Khan Development Network, and aims to address the threat of natural disasters and climate change, particularly in developing countries. The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat works with individuals from all around the world, including Tajikistan, where students are able to participate in internships.
Natural disasters are a major focus for AKAH operations in Tajikistan. The agency works in over 600 villages in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, helping communities assess, prepare for, mitigate and respond to the risks they face. Due to the mountainous landscapes of the surrounding region, the agency focuses on preparing for and responding to these disasters, which are also rapidly rising due to climate change.
The agency also works with national governments to accomplish their regional mission of risk mitigation and disaster relief. In Tajikistan, they work closely with the Government’s Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defence, the Main Department of Geology, the Committee for Environmental Protection, and the Institute of Seismology. Globally, AKAH partners with the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), to name a few.
Payrov hopes to continue at the organisation after he graduates. The impact the experience has had on him is something that will influence his career path moving forward.
“I am also looking forward to being part of this organisation and making an effort to contribute to my community in order to have a better quality of life,” he said. “Even though I only worked for a short period of time in AKAH, it was a really great experience for me.”
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