Aga Khan Development Network

AKU home

Medical College

School of Nursing


Institute for Educational Development

AKU in Pakistan

AKU in Afghanistan

AKU in East Africa

AKU in Middle East

AKU in the United Kingdom

Board of Trustees

AKU website

Other AKDN agencies

Other AKDN focus areas


AKU in Pakistan

Quick links:

School of Nursing and Midwifery
Medical College
Institute for Educational Development
Examination Board

S C H O O L    O F    N U R S I N G    A N D    M I D W I F E R Y
Operational since 1980

As the University’s first academic institution, the School began operating in 1980, and educates nurses to provide exemplary patient care and demonstrate leadership in nursing education, practice, administration and research.

In Pakistan, AKU-SONAM was the first to offer professional qualifications and degree programmes in the field of nursing. It now offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing.

The absence of higher education in midwifery within Pakistan and across South Asia and East Africa stirred a realisation that AKU School of Nursing (AKU-SON) should encompass midwifery education to facilitate opportunities for higher education and career advancement for midwives just like nurses.

As a result in 2009, the Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan and the Board of Trustees approved the proposed higher education plan in midwifery and it was agreed to change the name of Aga Khan University, School of Nursing to School of Nursing and Midwifery (AKU-SONAM).

The undergraduate clinical competency based midwifery curriculum has been reviewed by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) on the request of Pakistan Nursing Council (PNC).

SONAM happens to be the first nursing school to offer a Master of Science in Nursing (MScN) degree in Pakistan which began in 2001 with just 2 students. Strategic faculty development has since facilitated an annual intake of about 25 candidates. The curriculum is approved by PNC and students can enrol either for a two-year full-time or five-year part-time programme, which prepares nurses not only to practice in both, rural and urban settings, but also to take on leadership roles in the areas of education, administration, research and clinical practice.

Students are also provided opportunities to work with individuals, families and communities, utilising existing theories and evidence-based research findings.

It is envisioned that by the year 2020, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) will be the minimum requirement for practising as a nursing professional. Enrollments in the Post RN BScN programme are therefore expected to rise – from the current 137 students to around double the number by 2015. Keping pace with the advancement SONAM, Karachi has phased out the General Nursing Diploma, which was the first academic programme initiated at the AKU.

In 2010, AKU-SONAM undertook a pilot programme of offering the Post RN programme through blended learning utilising both distance learning via the internet and face to face interaction. The target is to convert the RN to BScN programme to a blended learning format by 2014. The blended learning approach will provide a larger number of nurses in East Africa, Pakistan and Central Asia the opportunity to convert their RN to proper BScN degrees.

The current diploma midwifery education was under the Aga Khan Health Services in Pakistan that has come under the umbrella of Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery AKU-SONAM through integration process.

AKU is now working on providing an undergraduate programme in midwifery, which will be a national and regional trendsetter. It is designed to increase prospects for midwives’ career advancement and improve the image, visibility, and demand for midwives who will have high quality education and be equipped to provide high quality of maternal and neonatal care. The undergraduate degree within AKU-SONAM will be the first program in the university setting to develop competent and independent midwives in the nation and in the regions where AKU is located.

The AKU-SONAM curriculum has been reviewed ICM Educational Committee and approved by Pakistan Nursing Council (PNC). The graduates will achieve internationally defined competencies with relevance to the local context and exhibit leadership in further developing midwifery education and services. The realization of the strategic plan will serve as a model for South and central Asia and the East African region.

M E D I C A L     C O L L E G E

Operational since 1983

The Medical College, established in 1983, has been training doctors for nearly three decades. Its graduates play leadership roles in raising the quality of care in their countries through improvements in primary, secondary and tertiary health care systems, conduct research on relevant diseases and offer technical assistance to governments at all levels.

Undergraduate students engage in problem-based learning and are required to spend a portion of their time in the community. Graduates emerge with clinical competence, not only in hospital practice but also in community settings, along with a more rounded understanding of health promotion and disease prevention.

In its initial years, the Medical College focused on undergraduate and postgraduate medical education. The undergraduate medical education (UGME) programme flourished as innovative learning methodologies - including problem based learning were sought and introduced and the faculty's professional development emphasized. Graduates of the UGME programme have achieved excellence in clinical service and academic endeavours all across the globe. As clinical services in the University Hospital expanded, the breadth and depth of the postgraduate medical education (PGME) programmes grew exponentially and the Medical College now hosts PGME in 51 specialties and sub-specialties (45 clinical disciplines, with 29 residency and 15 fellowship programmes along with a one-year internship).

The PGME programmes at AKU are widely sought after and have received excellent reviews by international accreditation organisations. The graduates of the PGME programmes make up a substantial portion of the current faculty and continue to provide state-of-the-art care in different areas of Pakistan.

In the academic year 1996-97, the Medical College expanded its educational programmes further and introduced a Master of Science in Epidemiology and Biostatistics degree. In 1999 a PhD in Health Sciences was introduced followed by a Master of Science in Health Policy and Management in 2000.

Year 2008 saw the introduction of two more graduate programmes of Master of Science in Clinical Research and Master of Bioethics. Master of Science in Clinical Research was introduced to train postgraduate residents in the art of research and scholarly activity, to produce the clinician- scientists who could be leaders in the future.

Latest offering of AKU-MC, P is a Master of Health Professions Education approved by the Board of Trustees in December 2011. Induction of first cohort of students in Master of Health Professions Education programme is currently underway. In addition AKU-MC, P also offers Advanced Diploma in Human Development and an Advanced Diploma in Health Profession Education initiated in Years 2006 and 2009 respectively.
At 29 years, the College is still a youngling amongst the giants of academia across the globe. While the College has established a reputation, the challenge is to continue to excel, the College understands that ultimately, it is quality of research that determines an institution's true position in the academic world. With the College's commitment to continued excellence in education, clinical services and research, it is hoped that the current decade will see the institution further consolidate its mark in the academic world.

I N S T I T U T E     F O R     E D U C A T I O N A L     D E V E L O P M E N T

Operational since 1993

Established in 1993, the Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED) aims to improve the quality of education by offering professional education programmes for teachers, teacher educators, educational managers, supervisory personnel and other officials, within a broad network of public and private education sectors in Pakistan and other developing countries.

AKU-IED operates in some of the most populous but most impoverished areas where access to basic education remains low and where gender disparities in educational access and achievements are large. In this context, AKU-IED tries to find ways of ‘working smarter’ by developing mechanisms for multiplier effect or impact amplification. Some of these include role modeling; influencing public sector education policies, viewing education reform initiatives, programmes and course graduates as direct beneficiaries and active change and impact agents; facilitating the participation of faculty and graduates in outreach activities, such as consultancy, textbook writing and curriculum development; emphasising research dissemination; and supporting the Professional Teachers’ Associations Network.

The Institute’s work benefits educational personnel, partner organisations, policy makers in government and non-government organisations. Its programmes and research activities attract students not only from Pakistan but from other developing countries. AKU-IED admits students on merit and encourages women representation in its student body.

Academic Programmes

AKU-IED offers various academic and professional education programmes to educational personnel from South and Central Asia and Afghanistan.

The four-year PhD (Education) programme focuses on teaching and learning processes in the developing countries. It produces quality educational researchers who are able to conduct research relevant to the developing world with a focus on curricula, teaching, learning and leadership. Partner universities have helped AKU-IED in the development of its doctoral programme and are assisting it in ensuring that this programme enjoys high quality and international credibility.

AKU-IED’s flagship two-year Master of Education (MEd) programme offers specialisations in Teacher Education and Educational Leadership and Management. It was developed and delivered in association with Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto and the Department of Education, University of Oxford. The MEd programme produces leaders in education who have a strong commitment to educational reform, are able to critically analyse situations and possess well-developed communication skills. Graduates of this programme are working in the field of education and holding leadership positions in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Syria, Uganda and Zanzibar.

For practicing teachers, AKU-IED offers Certificate in Education programmes in teaching of science, mathematics, social studies, English language, primary education, educational leadership and management, health education, inclusive education, citizenship education, environmental education, early childhood education and development, and Information and Communications Technology. The certificate programmes have been offered not only in Pakistan but also in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Central Asia and Syria. Several impact studies show that upon returning to their respective systems, these teachers have been instrumental in introducing innovative practices and focus on the ‘child’ in their classrooms, which has brought about improved student learning outcomes. One-year field-based Advanced Diploma programmes are offered in educational leadership and management and teaching of science, mathematics, social studies, English language and primary education. 


AKU-IED places significant importance on its research and scholarship activities. A Research and Policy Studies (RAPS) unit has been established to facilitate and maximise research productivity; and support the development of policy analysis and advocacy capacity at AKU-IED. The RAPS unit aims to develop an internationally recognised research capacity in areas such as impact studies of teacher education; community participation in education; classroom action research; educational leadership; gender in education; and citizenship education. The Institute has received external funding from the Aga Khan Foundation; aid agencies in Canada, Norway and the US; Comic Relief; the European Community; Save the Children; the University’s own Research Council; and the World Bank. Through the establishment of Pakistan Association of Research in Education, a national research association and through partnerships with national and international academia for research, AKU-IED is assisting in the development of a much stronger national research culture.


AKU-IED has established a network of Professional Development Centres (PDCs) in Pakistan. These PDCs maximise impact through outreach activities and University-programme offerings in regions or in school systems beyond the immediate reach of AKU-IED and they also develop and offer their own contextually appropriate programmes. Currently, there are three PDCs across Pakistan - the on-site/embedded PDC at AKU-IED, Karachi, a PDC in Gilgit-Baltistan, and a third one in Chitral.

AKU-IED’s success in implementing the PDC model has also encouraged the establishment of other PDCs supported by governments, NGOs and private school systems. The Government of Sindh has initiated the process of conceptualising the transformation of its existing teacher education institutions into PDCs. Moreover, AKU-IED has also been approached by the Government of Syria to assist its Ministry of Education in setting up a PDC in Damascus.

Partners in Education

AKU-IED partnerships with the University of Oxford and University of Toronto have provided valuable counsel on developing high-quality academic programmes, faculty development through PhD and developing research proposals. The Institute has developed links with Sheffield Hallam University, England and the Institute of Education, University of London and is also partnering with the Faculty of Education, University of Alberta as part of AKU/AKDN’s Memorandum of Understanding for forging institutional partnership.

AKU-IED has been working in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan and other developing countries to help improve the quality of education in these countries. These include working with the Afghan Ministry of Education, the Syrian Ministry of Education, and public sector institutions in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, through AKF and AKES in the respective countries.

E X A M I N A T I O N     B O A R D
Operational since 2003

The Aga Khan University Examination Board (AKU-EB) was created as part of the University’s fundamental role in improving the quality of education. More importantly, it is a response to a specific demand – made in 1995 by 16 schools in Pakistan – for improving the secondary and higher secondary school leaving certification system and offering examinations of a reputable standard, both in terms of costs and cultural suitability to students.

It offers high-quality, affordable examinations, in English and Urdu, based on the national curriculum and emphasising the understanding and application of knowledge. The examinations are designed to encourage comprehension, logical thinking and problem-solving skills that can prepare students for success in their adult lives.

Affiliation with the Board is voluntary and open to schools across the country, provided they meet the criteria set by AKU-EB. The Board also offers related services, such as a Teachers’ Professional Development Programme that helps teachers of Affiliated Schools with active teaching strategies to improve the learning environment in their classrooms.

AKU-EB employs a modern computerised marking system and sophisticated data analysis to support its very different style of examining. Its e-Marking system, the first such system in South Asia and fourth in the world, protects the candidate against marker error and allows accuracy, security and complete transparency in the processing of examination results. It also generates statistical reports for each school on a subject-by-subject and question-by-question basis, providing schools with information on the performance of their own candidates relative to the country as a whole. This helps improve performance, both of students and the schools, from year to year.


Aga Khan University Examination Board is a National Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education that offers qualifications in both English and Urdu. AKU-EB's primary purpose is to improve the quality of education. It achieves this by making examinations of reputable standard more accessible to Pakistani students so that AKU-EB qualifications are increasingly valued by leading higher education institutions within and outside the country.

The Examination Board was established by Aga Khan University in August 2003 in accordance with Ordinance CXIV of the Government of Pakistan to offer examination services for both Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC).

Unique Features

AKU-EB is intended to serve as a model of internationally recognized good practice in order to enhance the country's capacity for educational assessment and tests, and therefore to improve the quality of education in schools as well as in the national universities.

It boasts 150 Affiliated Schools and Colleges and is active in all four regions of Pakistan: Sindh, Punjab, Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Affiliation with AKU-EB is voluntary and its creation provides an additional option to students of schools controlled by the Federal Government, and also students of non-government schools throughout Pakistan and abroad.

It is the first board in South Asia to use e-Marking. The custom built e-Marking facility is unmatched in the world. There puts strong emphasis on conceptual understanding rather than rote memorization of text, and also includes listening skills tests in all language examinations. It is also the only Board in Pakistan which provides performance feedback to a range of partners to help improve their teaching, learning and assessment practices.

The results are announced within six weeks, and are recognized by local colleges and universities in admissions process. Supplementary learning materials both for students and teachers are available as well.
Every year, AKU-EB conducts more than 72,000 exams in almost 40 cities across Pakistan at participating schools. This year, it processed over a million student scripts for partners other than schools/colleges.


AKU-EB’s examination processing services have been availed by the Institute of Bankers Pakistan, Punjab Education Foundation (PEF), Sindh Education Foundation (SEF)and the Sukkur Institute of Business Administration and Daanish School System.. The nature of services includes Baseline Studies; capacity building of their item writers in assessment; design, testing and technical evaluation of their biannual examinations; and the creation of an electronic archive of their examination data including statistical analysis and reporting of candidates' performance etc. Our assessment reports serve as a guideline for these institutions and can be utilized to help improve the quality of teaching and learning in their classrooms, as well as enhance instructor performance at their workplaces.


1) Ten years of expertise in assessment

Aga Khan University Examination Board reached an important milestone this year – completing its 10 years of services in the field of assessment and education.

AKU-EB is deeply indebted to the ongoing support from Aga Khan University whose commitment to quality has informed every stage of our journey, and to the Chancellor of Aga Khan University, whose vision for education in Pakistan has shown us the way. AKU-EB now has around 150 schools affiliated across Pakistan benefitting from our international standard assessment and examination services. Officially launched in 2011, our Middle School Assessment Framework (MSAF) has received an overwhelming response across Pakistan. AKU-EB has also been extending its assessment expertise to partners other than schools. Over the years, our alumni have gone to renowned institutions of higher education across Pakistan and abroad pursuing a wide range of disciplines.

Our team of dedicated partners has helped us reach where we are today. We are trekking this journey with a progressive vision investing diverse resources in knowledge and research, and a commitment to making quality education accessible to all Pakistanis.

2) AKU-EB in the Community

Pioneering a unique instructional method in Pakistan, AKU-EB had entered into a partnership with KTN in December 2009 to provide learning support broadcasts in remote areas where quality education was less readily accessible.

Beginning in April 2010, the live broadcasts of Laat - Endeavour for Change offered an innovative teaching and learning experience in five SSC subjects: English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology using a Promethean ActivBoard. The ActivBoard was installed both at AKU-EB and KTN's studio making the broadcasts even more interesting for the young students. After completing two years of successful tutoring in five SSC subjects, these broadcasts ended in March 2012 however, all lessons are now available on DVD sets.

The instructional support was grounded in the National Curriculum and was of value to all those involved in the teaching and learning of these subjects at the secondary school level. The broadcasts were intended to enhance the teaching of certain key syllabus areas and topics while encouraging critical thinking. This method created interest and clarity around the topics being taught.

3) ED-Links: Link to Learning

Aga Khan University Examination Board is proud to have collaborated with the ED-Links: Link to Learning project aimed at improving the quality of education in rural Sindh and Balochistan. With the objective also of decreasing social stratification in society through the provision of quality assessment in these rural areas, AKU-EB's emphasis has been on introducing standards-referenced examinations where previously they were nonexistent.

Standards are defined by Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) - what a child should know and be able to do after any given lesson; these SLOs were presented in Pakistan with the National Curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education for the first time in 2006, following AKU-EB's successful implementation of the practice since its establishment in 2003. The Board's goal has been to encourage assessment according to these standards, creating a benchmark for measuring comparability and fostering consequent improvement through uniform standards for everyone.

AKU-EB facilitated exam development workshops in 14 districts in Sindh and Balochistan with the development of 162 standards-referenced exam papers for Grade 6, 7 and 8 in English, Math and Science by teachers. The exams were conducted by the district Education Offices in 1900 schools in 10 districts in Sindh and 160 schools in 4 districts in Balochistan.

In addition to facilitating the development of examination papers in these areas, AKU-EB conducted 42 marking workshops, followed by the processing and distribution of feedback reports to over 550 schools of their students' examination results. Feedback also went to district education offices and teacher training institutes where planning is ongoing on a larger scale for preparing schools, teachers and other professionals for standards-referenced learning and assessment.

Return to top