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  • Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmonov, Afghanistan’s Vice-President Nematullah Shahrani and His Highness the Aga Khan, lay the foundation stone for the Khorog Campus, University of Central Asia.
    AKDN / Gary Otte
University of Central Asia launched: first University in the region dedicated to high mountain populations with campuses in Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan

Khorog, Tajikistan and Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic, 6-8 July 2004 - President Emomali Rahmonov of Tajikistan, joined His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims on 6th July, in laying the foundation stone of the Khorog campus in Tajikistan - the first of three campuses of the University of Central Asia (UCA). The Vice-President of Afghanistan, Nematullah Shahrani also attended the ceremony. The second campus of the UCA was inaugurated in Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic on 8th July, by His Excellency the Prime Minister of Kyrgyz Republic, Mr. Tanaev, in the presence of Prince Amyn Aga Khan and Governor Salymbekov.

Mountain regions almost everywhere experience extreme poverty and isolation as well as constraints on the range of opportunities that may be available to those living in urban centres or those living in agricultural flat lands. The goal of the UCA is to serve the 40 million people who live in the mountain regions of Central Asia by fostering economic and social development.

Private, secular and non-profit, the UCA may be characterised as a “development university”. Its faculty will teach and undertake research in fields and disciplines that are relevant to mountain economies and societies.

“We are celebrating the foundation of a unique institution,” said the Aga Khan. “By creating intellectual space and resources, the University will bring the power of education and human ingenuity to the economic and social challenges of mountain societies in Central Asia and elsewhere.”

Much has been done since the ratification of the UCA Treaty signed by the Aga Khan and the Presidents of Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan. Whilst the three campuses already offer practical, continuing education courses in temporary premises, architects have been commissioned for the construction of permanent premises. The design process has started under the care of award-winning architect Arata Isozaki of Japan, who will lead the process with support from Sasaki Associates of the USA, who will develop the three campus sites. A University Park will be a prominent feature of the campuses and will provide leisure spaces and facilities for both the students and the local community.

“Forming and sustaining young faculty from within the region will be a major undertaking, but indispensable if the University is to become part of the societies and cultures of the region.” said the Aga Khan. “The most promising teachers and scholars from this region, young Tajiks, Kyrgyz and Kazakhs will be identified and offered opportunities for additional training so that they master the latest approaches to teaching and research in the fields required by a new curriculum” he added.

The UCA will offer three academic programmes:

A Post-Graduate School of Development offering a Master of Arts degree in multiple areas that define the lives of mountain peoples. This umbrella structure will house a series of institute programmes in which a common grounding in subjects such as market economics and civil society will lead to programmes of study and research that culminate in a Master’s degree within the Post-Graduate School of Development.

A School of Undergraduate Studies offering a Bachelor’s degree based on the liberal arts and sciences and designed to educate men and women for a wide range of leadership roles in government, business, education, culture, or the delivery of social services.

A School of Continuing Education offering non-degree courses in local languages to mid-career professionals, civil servants, businessmen and women, and leaders of civil society organizations. It will also offer programmes for older learners and the general public in practical areas relevant to economic and social development.

“There are two measures of success of any university,” concluded the Aga Khan. “The careers of its graduates, and the quality of research, which is carried out in the universities and then is used for the benefit of the communities that the university serves.”

The third campus of the UCA, in Tekeli, Kazakhstan will be inaugurated later this summer.

For further information, please contact:

Sam Pickens
Information Officer
Aga Khan Development Network
PO Box 2049 1211 Geneva 2
Telephone: +41 22 909 7277
Fax: +41 22 909 7292
E-mail: Website:

The Information Department
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Notes: The founders of the UCA are President Akayev of Kyrgyzstan, President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, President Rahmonov of Tajikistan and His Highness the Aga Khan. In 1997, an International Commission was formed to plan a University, and in 2000 the International Treaty establishing the University was signed by the founders and subsequently ratified by the parliaments of the three countries. 

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of private development agencies working to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in Central and South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The Network's agencies work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of their gender, origin or religion. Its underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for philanthropic activity is in excess of US$230 million.

The AKDN has, since 1993, launched a number of successful initiatives in Central Asia in areas ranging from agrarian reform to education, infrastructure, healthcare, micro-credit, small enterprise development and cultural revitalisation. These include the creation of rural support programmes in Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic, curriculum development for universities in the region through the Aga Khan Humanities Project, promotion and preservation of musical traditions of the region through the Aga Khan Music Initiative, educational support for students, faculty and university resources for training in a variety of disciplines ranging from English language, and Economics to Architecture and Computer-Aided Design. Cultural and social development initiatives have been enhanced by support for health and education sector reform and formal collaboration with the United Nations, five Central Asian republics and Russia in regional drug control programmes. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), in collaboration with other international investors has established the Kyrgyz Investment and Credit Bank the country's largest commercial bank. In collaboration with the IFC, AKDN operates the Pamir Energy Company, which operates one of the largest power projects in the region.