The Aga Khan arrived in Tajikistan on Sunday as part of six-day visit to that country and its mountainous neighbor, Kyrgyzstan, where he will lay the cornerstones for two of three campuses for the future University of Central Asia (UCA), the world's first internationally chartered institution of higher education.
"This will be the first university of its kind in the region," Sam Pickens, information officer for the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of development agencies working in health, education, culture and rural and economic development, told IRIN from the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, referring to the inaugural event set to take place in the southern Tajik city of Khorog on Tuesday.
Founded by the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and the Aga Khan, 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.
The UCA's first three campuses will be in Khorog, Tajikistan; Tekeli, Kazakhstan; and Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, which the Aga Khan is to inaugurate on Thursday.
"There is a growing appreciation of the link between the intellectual resources of major universities and the overall development of cities and nations," the Aga Khan said in an earlier statement. "The three campuses of the UCA will be catalysts for the development of the region."
And while each campus would have its own areas of specialization, all would be fully developed and of approximately equal scale, with each interacting closely with the others.
"These universities are going to offer three types of programs: a continuing education program, which has already been in operation for two years; a bachelor program in the humanities; and a masters program in the development field, particularly important for mountain societies," Pickens said.
Regarding the uniqueness of the university, he stressed it would have a liberal arts base to it, but would also introduce the notion of a campus setting, in which students and teachers live in close proximity, allowing for an interchange of ideas.
The university would be a needs-blind facility of higher learning, he said, stressing: "No talented students will be turned away for financial reasons…"
IRIN, July 05, 2004