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  • His Highness the Aga Khan and The Honourable Bev Oda, Minister of International Cooperation at the signing ceremony.
    AKDN / Gary Otte
McMaster and AKU sign MOU for expanded partnership

Toronto, Canada, 22 November 2008 - McMaster University and the Aga Khan University (AKU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding today to address commonly shared objectives in the health sciences, sciences, the social sciences, humanities and business.

The Memorandum was signed in Toronto by McMaster University President Dr. Peter George and President Firoz Rasul of the Aga Khan University, in the presence of Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, The Honourable Beverly J. Oda and His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. His Highness the Aga Khan is the Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network and Chancellor of AKU.

“I view this as an agreement of a much wider spectrum of importance and outcome than you might think, simply by talking about the profession of nursing,” said the Aga Khan at the ceremony.

“In the past years we have seen a number of countries in the developing world enter into the dimension of what I call failure of competent democratic government. A number of countries have run into difficulty; constitutional management, economic management, the management of pluralist societies. When governments are fragile, it is civil society which comes in and sustains the development process. Professional nursing, educating women, is an absolutely fundamental pillar to the building of society.”

Presidents George and Rasul both noted that the partnership between the two universities had been profound and was the driving force of the renewed engagement.

“Our collaboration with McMaster raised the status of nursing in Pakistan, provided women with opportunities for professional development and leadership, and contributed to the health care system in the country. Over time, the impact of this partnership has extended beyond Pakistan to other countries where AKU has a nursing presence including Kenya Tanzania, Uganda, Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt, and has been instrumental in  improving the quality of nursing education, and more generally strengthening the role and recognition of women professionals and their contributions to society,” said President Rasul.

President George said: “The Aga Khan University has shown remarkable leadership in educational and social development, and we have been pleased to offer our expertise in building capacity in health care education, particularly in nursing. Our joint venture has shown the effectiveness of universities working together to address development challenges. We anticipate this second generation partnership will expand the benefits of our collaboration to many more countries.”

The Honourable Beverley J. Oda also acknowledged the significance of this growing partnership: recognising the contribution of quality higher education to the creation of stable and prosperous societies, the Government of Canada has been a strong supporter of partnerships with the Aga Khan University.

“The Government of Canada is proud to witness the partnership between McMaster and Aga Khan University, to exchange knowledge and research between Canada and the developing world," said Minister Oda. “Investments such as these have delivered tangible improvements in the quality of health care and education in Afghanistan, Pakistan, East Africa and beyond,” she said.

Under the new agreement, the two universities will partner to support national nursing initiatives in select countries of Africa and Asia where the nursing profession has been neglected.

AKU and McMaster will constitute an International Nursing Advisory Group of experienced nursing leaders to build national capacity and identify solutions for improving nursing education, practice and regulation. The Advisory Group will also assist AKU and McMaster in accessing the technical experts required to engage with nursing professionals in academia, clinical practice and research. AKU’s rich data and understanding of local knowledge and cultures combined with McMaster’s expertise and skills, provides an opportunity to explore new frontiers in teaching and research, new models of partnerships and new strategies to address global development issues.

The Memorandum builds on AKU’s historic collaboration with McMaster that began in 1979 and has resulted in a 23-year affiliation. The partnership supported the development of academic programmes and leaders in nursing, especially women, to drive health policy reform in Pakistan. A key outcome of this collaboration was a Post Registered Nurse Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Post RN BScN) programme at AKU, the first undergraduate level academic nursing programme of its kind in Pakistan. With financial support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the programme focused on building a strong human resource base and on preparing leaders for the health sector.

In the next phase of collaboration, under a unique bilateral partnership between the Governments of Pakistan and Canada, McMaster and AKU served as technical associates under a project executed and managed by the two universities. Through a variety of fellowships, and needs-based capacity building initiatives, McMaster and AKU were able to create a critical mass of well-prepared women health professionals (nurses and Lady Health Visitors), and contribute towards strengthening important national institutions such as the Pakistan Nursing Council. Today, a majority of the graduates supported through this partnership hold key leadership positions in nursing in the public and private sector.

The Government of Canada, through CIDA, has been instrumental in the success of the AKU-McMaster partnership in its effort to underwrite capacity building and human development in the health sector in Pakistan.

The McMaster-AKU collaboration clearly demonstrates the value of investing in partnerships between universities in the industrialised and developing worlds to effectively respond to global issues affecting our world today. Such partnerships cultivate understanding, build bridges and foster hope.

For further information, please contact:

Susan EmighPublic Relations
Faculty of Health Sciences
McMaster University  
Tel: 905-525-9140, ext. 22555
Cell:  905-518-3642

Jennifer Morrow
Manager, Communications  
Aga Khan Foundation Canada  
Tel: 613-237-2532 ext 120 
Cell: 613-697-9532       



McMaster University is a world renowned, research-intensive university that fosters a culture of innovation and commitment to discovery and learning in research, teaching and scholarship. Based in Hamilton Ontario, McMaster is affiliated with three progressive academic hospitals and joint research institutes/centres that are on the leading edge of advances in health sciences.

Its Faculty of Health Sciences is unique in Canada as a Faculty that trains nurses, midwives, physicians, physiotherapists and occupational therapists to work together as part of effective health care teams to provide the finest patient care.

Globally, McMaster has a reputation for excellence in providing comprehensive capacity building in health sciences, with expertise in physical plant requirements and costs, faculty recruitment and ongoing development, clinical infrastructure and creating clinical affiliations, admission policy and practice, curriculum development and implementation, and accreditation standards at the international level.

Chartered in 1993, the Aga Khan University is Pakistan’s first private, autonomous university and its charter calls upon it to serve the Muslim Ummah and developing countries.

The University is recognised for its research, teaching and service at an international standard in medicine, nursing, teacher education, medical care and community service. The university has campuses and programmes in eight countries in South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, including Faculties of Health Sciences with a Nursing School, Medical College and teaching hospitals in Karachi and Nairobi, Institutes for Educational Development in Karachi and Dar es Salaam, an Examination Board and an Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations.

AKU is one of nine agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network, and is a non-denominational institution open to all, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, gender, national origin or financial standing.

Background Notes:
Collaboration between McMaster University, Aga Khan University and the Canadian International Development Agency
In June 1979, a team consisting of Canadian and Pakistani nurse consultants conducted a brief survey on nursing education and health services in Pakistan. Their report indicated that there was: a) severe shortage of professional nurses in the country; b) lack of public recognition and social prestige given to nurses and c) disparity between the number of trained nurses and doctors in the country. To address some of the challenges identified by the team and to improve the status of nursing in Pakistan, the Aga Khan University School of Nursing (AKU-SON) was established. It was the first operational academic unit of AKU and the first school of nursing in Pakistan to be part of a university. The Pakistan Nursing Council recognised AKU-SON in August 1981.

PHASE I: (1983-1986) 
The objective of this phase was to assist in the development of educational programmes to provide well qualified nurses for primary, secondary and tertiary health care in Pakistan and to build the capacity at the Aga Khan University School of Nursing. Under this phase, 32 nurses completed a 12-month work-study programme and seven nurses completed a two-year Post Registered Nurse BScN Programme at McMaster University.

PHASE II: (1987-1992)
The objective of this phase was to enhance capacity building of nursing human resources and nursing institutions in Pakistan. It consisted of two components; a work-study programme and a BScN Programme at McMaster University for nurses working in government institutions, Aga Khan Health Services, Pakistan, Aga Khan University Hospital, and AKU-SON. The outcome of this phase was the development of an AKU Post Registered Nurse BScN programme for preparing nursing for leadership roles and education, in hospital and community settings. A total of 40 registered nurses and 15 Lady Health Visitors (LHV) benefited from capacity development initiatives at McMaster University.

PHASE III: (1994 - 2000)
Development of Women Health Professionals (DWHP) Programme
This programme was a bilateral programme between the Governments of Pakistan and Canada, executed through a partnership agreement between McMaster University and Aga Khan University and funded by CIDA. It focused on preparing nursing professionals in government service to assume leadership roles and to participate effectively in health planning and policy making. It assisted nursing institutions and professional organizations, such as the Pakistan Nursing Council and Pakistan Nurses’ Federation to function more effectively. The programme’s research component focused on human resource development and other issues relevant to the development of nursing in Pakistan. During this phase, a total of 55 fellowships were provided to registered nurses to complete the Post RN BScN programme at AKU and 69 LHVs were provided with post basic education.