Austin, Texas, USA, 12 April 2008 - His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims and founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, and Texas Governor Rick Perry today hailed a landmark agreement between the Aga Khan University (AKU) and the University of Texas at Austin (UT) as a move towards narrowing the gap between the West and Islam and towards bridging the gulf between the industrialised countries and the developing world.
Governor Perry and the Aga Khan attended the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two universities at the Texas State Capitol. The agreement, signed by AKU President Firoz Rasul and UT President William Powers Jr., sets a framework for intensified international cooperation in education and research by the two renowned universities.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Governor Perry said, “I have supported this programme from the very beginning because we must bridge the gap of understanding between East and West if we ever hope to experience a future of peace and prosperity. The MOU signals our collective agreement to expand educational horizons for our students; it will also direct these institutions’ combined expertise at many challenges, including disease, poverty and pollution.”
The Aga Khan stressed the importance of the developing countries’ abilities to nurture and retain the talent of their people. “Developing countries in Asia and Africa urgently need to “retain the best brains, to educate their most talented young men and women, if we are to bridge the gulf between industrialized states and developing countries,” he said. He added that the Aga Khan University will be looking to its partnership with the University of Texas to enhance learning in areas of knowledge that will be important to the future of the developing world.
Thanking the Aga Khan for his vision and leadership, University of Texas President Powers described the agreement signed today as a “watershed moment in our history,” adding that the people of Texas will benefit greatly from bridges built between the two cultures. “When we learn more about one another through study and through dialogue, our lives are enriched, our institutions are strengthened and our people benefit greatly, and in the process we experience the deeper respect and understanding that should always guide the spirit of brotherhood,” he said.
“Universities are marked by the contributions they make to the knowledge of mankind,” noted Firoz Rasul, President of the Aga Khan University. AKU’s rich data and understanding of local conditions combined with the University of Texas’ knowledge and expertise provides the two universities with an opportunity to share learning and embark upon new research initiatives in order to make a positive contribution to the lives of peoples in the developing world, he added.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed today by the Aga Khan University and the University of Texas at Austin provides for an expansion of the two Universities’ existing programs relating to education and teaching about Muslim Histories and Cultures as well as identifies a number of other intellectual development areas for further initiatives, including architecture and human settlement; management, government, public policy and civil society; economic growth and development; education, science and technology; health sciences including joint research and training; and human development.
The Aga Khan is in Texas at the invitation of Governor Perry. During his visit, he will be honored at a gala dinner by Governor Perry and the First Lady, commemorating the Aga Khan’s Golden Jubilee; a celebration of his 50th anniversary as the Imam of the Ismaili Muslims. The Aga Khan will continue his visit to the USA, traveling to California, Illinois and Georgia.
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His Highness the Aga Khan The Aga Khan is founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion. The AKDN’s underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for development activities is in excess of US$ 350 million.
Aga Khan University The Aga Khan is Chancellor of the Aga Khan University (AKU). Chartered in 1983, AKU, an agency of AKDN, is Pakistan’s first private, autonomous university. Through its high academic standards in programmes relevant to the needs of developing societies, and its contributions on issues of health and education, the University continues to exert an impact in the countries where it operates. AKU is a non-denominational institution open to all, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, gender or national origin. The University’s admissions policy is needs-blind and based on merit. Over 33 percent of the students receive financial aid.