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  • In June 2021, UCA's first convocation ceremony honoured the first class of undergraduate students from the School of Arts and Sciences and was livestreamed from the University campuses in Khorog, Tajikistan and Naryn, Kyrgyzstan.
    AKDN / Orzu Sobirov
University of Central Asia
The first class: Making history at the University of Central Asia

The University of Central Asia’s (UCA) first undergraduate campus opened its doors in 2016 in Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic, and welcomed the future class of 2021.

UCA was founded in 2000 by His Highness the Aga Khan and the presidents of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan. Aiming to promote the social and economic development of Central Asia, the university also helps preserves the region’s rich cultural traditions and heritages as assets for the future.

Nestled in a rural mountain community, UCA immerses students in a fully residential campus environment. This encourages students from across Central Asia to exchange ideas and learn from each other, promoting diversity and pluralism.  More than half of the undergraduate students are women.

Meet a few members of UCA’s Class of 2021 below:


Muybalikhon - Major: Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Muybalikhon - Major: Earth and Environmental Sciences

At UCA, I have made many friends and connections from different parts of the world. The university also created good opportunities for us students to meet with new people who are studying and working in our selected fields.

As a student majoring in Earth and Environmental Sciences, field study helps me put into practice the concepts I have learned in lectures and seminars. The unique settings of both Naryn and Khorog campuses served as an exceptional field to study different types of rocks, minerals and soil.  I was also able to observe the physical impacts of climate change on the mountainous environment, through rockfalls, avalanches and debris flows.

Summer and winter internships have also greatly enhanced my education experience. I have a better understanding of and can explain the main challenges that my own community faces:  How climate change has influenced mountainous societies and how we can address these issues.

Despite its young age, UCA has created hundreds of local jobs, while the scholars and their students have been conducting research to helped improve the environment and well-being of the local community.

For me, UCA represents hope and faith in the future of my community and my country.


Jyldyz - Major: Communications and Media Studies.

Jyldyz - Major: Communications and Media Studies

I would choose the University of Central Asia over and over because of its uniqueness, how it cares for students and for making a difference in the community.

The five years I have spent at UCA were full of various initiatives, internships and extracurricular activities. I was on the Dean’s list for academic achievements four years in a row. Outside of the classroom, being a leader and serving the community were also a necessary part of my journey.

During the preparatory programme, I started teaching English to secondary school students on weekends. Being a volunteer teacher for five years is one of the ways I gave back by helping others access education.

In 2019, I spent five weeks in Auburn, Washington state along with 88 participants from developing countries in the Women’s Leadership Programme. This intense programme strengthened my leadership skills and interest in independent gender studies.

UCA taught me how to be strong and brave… and I am fully ready to start a new chapter of my life.


Murodali - Major: Computer Science.

Murodali - Major: Computer Science

I feel lucky to have had an opportunity to obtain my undergraduate degree at UCA.

It was an extraordinary experience, studying in Naryn. Even though it’s remote and isolated, I never felt cut off from the rest of the world. I learned so much and gained a multitude of life skills.

During my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to participate in a range of conferences held by the University. In my junior year, I volunteered at the Digital Transformations conference organised by UCA and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in Bishkek. There, I met a range of experts in the field of digitisation and various governmental heads. At the second part of the conference, held at the Naryn campus, I was able to participate at a hackathon, presenting my project focused on improving the learning experience of children with dyslexia.

I am confident my chosen programme and the University are equipping me with the necessary skills and experience to accomplish my future aspirations.


University of Central Asia, Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic.
AKDN / Christopher Wilton-Steer

This text was adapted from article published on the AKF Canada website.