Karachi, Pakistan, 19 December, 2013 - His Highness the Aga Khan, founder and Chancellor of the Aga Khan University, today outlined an ambitious global vision for the University’s expansion into liberal arts and announced the creation of seven new graduate schools across two continents that will work in areas of particular relevance to developing societies.
Addressing the University’s 2013 convocation ceremony, which marked 30 years since the school was granted its charter in Pakistan, the Aga Khan praised the AKU’s record of success and excellence in the fields of healthcare and education as well as its geographic expansion to East Africa but he also stressed the growing importance of liberal arts in meeting the challenges of the future.
“The Liberal Arts, I believe, can provide an ideal context for fostering inter-disciplinary learning, nurturing critical thinking, inculcating ethical values, and helping students to learn how to go on learning about our ever-evolving universe,” he said.
The Aga Khan said the university’s new liberal arts focus will help it shape new leaders for the future in a world where forces of civil society will play an increasingly important role especially in often volatile environments in the developing world.
“In places where government has been ineffective, or in post-conflict situations, civil society has demonstrated its potential value for maintaining, and even enhancing, the quality of human life,” he said, noting that civil society requires leaders who possess not only well-honed specialized skills, but also a welcoming attitude to a broad array of disciplines and outlooks. “This is why we believe that an investment in Liberal Arts education is also an investment in strengthening civil society,” he emphasised.
The ceremony was also attended by His Excellency Dr Ishrat Ul Ebad Khan, Governor of Pakistan’s southern Sindh Province and the province’s Chief Minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah. Princess Zahra Aga Khan, the Aga Khan’s daughter, and a member of the University’s Board of Trustees was also present.
Speaking at the occasion, the Governor paid tribute to the Aga Khan for his inspiring leadership, strategic vision and his profound commitment to humanity. “His contributions in our country and beyond to education and development to improving the human condition and above all to the ideals of excellence and the values of public service, social responsibility and human compassion, are for us to follow and emulate,” he said. In his speech, AKU President Mr Firoz Rasul, who has led the school’s expansion over the past 8 years, urged the graduates to be the leaders of change their society so desperately needs: “At the core of leadership lies a restless desire to accomplish that which has never been done before, and the willing assumption of responsibility for the success of others. Today, there is one other trait that a leader must possess: the conviction that the pursuit of knowledge is key to progress,” he said.
“Regrettably, in the Muslim world, this conviction has seemed less important or prominent in recent decades. It was not always the case,” he added.
In his address, the Aga Khan emphasized that throughout history, success in the Muslim world has always been associated with pursuit of knowledge and education. “Whenever and wherever it may have been, in the Middle East, or South, or Central Asia, or Northern Africa, the most brilliant periods in Islamic history were marked by an expansive quest for intellectual excellence,” he said.
A total of 367 students were officially awarded degrees during the ceremony today (Thursday), including graduands from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, the Medical College the Institute for Educational Development and the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisation in the United Kingdom.
The occasion marked a number of other key milestones, including three decades since the graduation of the first class of the School of Nursing, the 25th anniversary of the first graduating class of the Medical College, the 20th anniversary of AKU’s Institute for Educational Development, and the 10th anniversary of the University’s Examination Board.
The historic convocation ceremony drew over 4,000 guests – one of the largest convocation gatherings in recent times. The participants included the Board of Trustees, faculty, students and supporters of the University from around the world.
The Convocation also saw four highly respected members of the University honoured for their achievements and contribution to the success of the institution.
The Aga Khan used the opportunity to show his appreciation to the numerous donors while he inaugurated new facilities on the Karachi campus including the Aamir Kanji Gardens and the Jenabai Hussainali Shariff Building. He also toured the new wing of the Labour and Delivery Ward of the Aziz Valimohammed building and visited the construction site for the Centre of Innovation in Medical Education.