UCA Board Executive Committee Visit Khorog Programmes and Governor of GBAO

Date: 16 July 2014
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 programmes in Khorog, Tajikistan. 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 metres above sea level on land provided by the Government of the Republic 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 programmes 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 Centre 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 metre 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 programme offers skills development in carpentry, plastering and tile setting, masonry, plumbing, metal-working and AutoMechatronics. The School possesses a construction licence 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 Gorno Badakshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) 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.
 
AKDN Resident Representative Pesnani noted that: "I conveyed to the Governor, AKDN's sincere thanks and appreciation for the continued support of the Government of Tajikistan and the GABO Hukumat in the implementation of various AKDN projects and programmes all over the country. UCA is a very important and major project of AKDN for Tajikistan and also the region. It will not only provide the best quality education but will create many employment opportunities both during the construction phase and while fully operational. This will benefit all the people of Tajikistan. All the projects and programmes of AKDN in Tajikistan are directed towards improving in the quality of life of all citizens of the country and UCA is one such investment in the field or higher learning and research."