DUSHANBE, July 16, 2014, Asia-Plus – According to press release issued by the School of Professional and Continuing Education, University of Central Asia (UCA) on July 16, during a two-day visit to Central Asia, the University of Central Asia (UCA) Board Executive Committee and senior members of UCA’s management toured the University’s main campus site and programs in Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO).

Accompanied by Akbar Ali Pesnani, Head of the Representation of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in Tajikistan, the Committee also visited AKDN projects, including Khorog City Park.

Committee members toured UCA’s Khorog campus site, located 2,100 meters above sea level on land provided by the Government of Tajikistan.  They familiarized themselves with the preparatory works accomplished and that are ongoing such as the intensive stone removal and crushing process that has provided employment to some 250 local residents.

During this visit, the Executive Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Shamsh Kassim-Lakha announced, “The Chancellor of the University, His Highness the Aga Khan, has tasked UCA’s management to accelerate the construction of its Khorog campus, and beginning this September, UCA will leap forward by starting work on the foundation of the Main Academic building. Khorog is a difficult construction site but we are confident that this fully residential campus will open its doors to students in September 2018.”

The UCA Board Executive Committee oversees the development of university in the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, whose governments founded the University under an International Treaty, with the His Highness the Aga Khan.  Its members are Executive Chairman Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, Head of Aga Khan AKDN Representation, Kyrgyz Republic and Founding President of the Aga Khan University; and Dr. Shafik Sachedina, Director of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diplomatic Department; Naguib Kheraj, prominent United Kingdom banker, and board member at the United Kingdom National Health Service and the Prince of Wales Trust; and Nizar Shariff, who has coordinated 50 construction projects for AKDN.

The University of Central Asia is one university in three locations committed to offering and international standard of higher education. Students from Tajikistan will not have to wait until September 2018 to enroll at UCA.  The campus in Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic will open its doors in September 2016 welcoming students from the region.  Each UCA campus has its unique specializations that start after the first two years of the preparatory and general education requirements have been completed.  The Khorog campus offer demanding and highly market relevant specializations in Earth and Environmental Sciences, Communication and Media, and Development Studies.  The Naryn campus will focus on Economics, Computer Sciences, and Central Asian Studies; and the Tekeli campus (in Kazakhstan, to be opened shortly after Khorog) on Engineering Sciences, Business and Globalization studies.

Dr. Ariff Kachra, UCA’s Dean of Academic Affairs, who was part of the mission, emphasized that “UCA is working hard to develop a world-class curriculum.  We will be making an enormous effort to prepare students from Tajikistan and other countries to ensure that they will be able to complete their studies successfully in programs that will be on a par with some of the best universities in the West and Asia.”

The Earth Sciences specialization at Khorog will be strengthened by the presence of the Mountain Societies Research Institute, a leading regional centre of knowledge currently based in Bishkek that will shortly have a permanent base in Khorog.

An important feature of UCA’s activities in Tajikistan is its School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE) that provides young people and adults with professional and vocational qualifications.  Launched in Khorog in 2006, SPCE opened its Dushanbe Learning Center in 2008 and has enrolled over 33,000 learners in 120 training courses to date.  Assisting Afghanistan, the School’s Cross-Border Vocational Education in Badakhshan Project provides Afghan learners scholarships and training in English, information technology and accounting, as well as teaching skills.

Committee members toured SPCE’s Technical and Vocational Education Training’s (TVET) recently renovated state-of-the-art 15,000 square meter facilities.  Built by TVET apprentices, the facility is equipped with modern tools and can accommodate up to 128 students annually.  The facility also houses the cooperative Zindagi and construction company Sokhtmonchi 2010 run by TVET alumni, which regularly employ or train TVET students.

With its apprenticeship model, TVET provides practical experience and employment opportunities through industry and AKDN partnerships.  The program offers skills development in carpentry, plastering and tile setting, masonry, plumbing, metal-working and AutoMechatronics.  The School possesses a construction license and ensures that the majority of its apprentices and graduates are employed at construction sites.

During their visit to Khorog, the Committee members also paid a courtesy visit to Shodikhon Jamshed, Governor of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region to apprise the Governor of the University’s construction developments and academic progress.

“The GBAO government considers fruitful mutual cooperation with AKDN in various socio-economic sectors very important.  The announcement of UCA’s start of construction is excellent news and received by our people with some excitement,” said Governor Jamshed during the meeting.

The University of Central Asia (UCA) was founded in 2000, by the Presidents of Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan and His Highness the Aga Khan to promote the social and economic development of Central Asia, especially its mountain regions by offering an internationally recognized standard of higher education that prepare graduates to contribute ideas, innovation and leadership to the economies and communities of the region.

His Highness the Aga Khan is founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East.  The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion.  The AKDN’s underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for non-profit development is US$625 million.  In Kyrgyzstan, more than 1,000 people most of who are local citizens are directly employed by AKDN and its various agencies.