The University, established by international treaty between Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and the Ismaili Imamat, is the world's first institution of higher learning dedicated to the challenges of mountain populations. The University, whose establishment has been ratified by the legislatures of each of the founding countries, has an initial endowment of US 15 million granted by the Aga Khan.
The Aga Khan, who was accompanied by officers of the University, was received in Taldykorgan by the Akim of Almaty Oblast, Mr. Kulmakhanov. He visited sites in and near Tekeli, a mountain town three hours from Almaty and near the Chinese border, where facilities for the regional institution will be located.
Yesterday, the Aga Khan briefed President Nursultan Nazarbayev on the development of the new university, which will involve the construction of equally important facilities in the three founding states.
Speaking to the media after his meeting with the President, the Aga Khan explained that the University of Central Asia was a regional institution "intended to give students and faculty real capacity to think on a regional basis." Underlining the secular nature of the University, the Aga Khan said that "it will teach civilisation - in the widest context. It will not teach religion as theology."
Emphasising that the University would have a means-blind admission policy, the Aga Khan explained that admissions would be merit-based and irrespective of a student's background or financial status. Students would be expected to pay fees, but no qualified student who was admitted would be denied an education for lack of funds. Noting that the research that universities of quality were required to undertake to maintain their standing made them very expensive to operate, he said that even full fee-paying students generally contribute only about 25% to the actual cost of their education, the remainder being subsidised by the university.
The University of Central Asia will also have campuses in Khorog, Tajikistan and Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic. The Division of Continuing Education, which offers a variety of courses in the skills required by modern economies, has been in operation in Khorog, Tajikistan, since 2002.
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The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies whose mandates range from the fields of health and education to architecture, rural development and the promotion of private-sector enterprise. They collaborate in working towards a common goal - building institutions and programmes that can respond to the challenges of social, economic and cultural change on an ongoing basis. Active in over 20 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, the Network's underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society and its agencies and institutions work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of origin, gender or religion. The Network's agencies have been present in Central Asia since the early 1990s and undertake a wide range of activities in several countries in the region.