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Address by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, at the First Convocation of the University of Central Asia

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The Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan,

Your Excellency President Emomali Rahmon,

Your Excellency President Sadyr Japarov.

Honorable Ministers

Honorable Governors,

Members of the Board of Trustees and Rector Sohail Naqvi

Deans, Faculty and Staff of the University

Parents, supporters, and distinguished guests and most important the Graduates.


On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I am delighted to welcome you to this historic first convocation of UCA. My heartiest congratulations and warmest best wishes to the Class of 2021 for this momentous milestone in your life.

On behalf of the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees I extend deep appreciation to the Patrons of the University, the Presidents of the Republic of Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and the Republic of Kazakhstan for their valuable support.

We also thank the Ministers of Education and Science of the three Founding States for their valuable support and the Governors and Mayors of the towns of Naryn, Khorog and Tekeli for welcoming UCA as part of their communities.

Today we acknowledge the efforts of the Rector, faculty, management, staff, and volunteers in the education of these young women and men.

Our special gratitude however must go to the parents of the graduating class. It was a huge commitment on your part, and we are grateful for your faith and commitment to the vision and mission of this new University.

Establishing a private, not-for-profit, secular and regional institution dedicated to the education of the mountain communities of Central Asia, is a unique and audacious idea that was first conceived by the Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, 25 years ago. It required meticulous designing and building of world class facilities and the recruitment and training of the faculty and staff and refinement of the academic programmes.

The curriculum of UCA’s undergraduate programme is designed to cultivate the knowledge and skills students will need to integrate different approaches to tackle problems and create innovations.

The small class size and the close relationship with faculty offered an exceptional opportunity for intellectual growth and then living on a residential campus has been a micro-polity in which the best practices in the realm of civil culture are embodied in governance and everyday interaction.

Such a campus community has offered rich opportunities for students to develop the many intangible habits of responsible citizenship and leadership skills, which, we are convinced will be the distinguishing characteristics of UCA’s graduates.

Today, despite the many daunting and seemingly insurmountable challenges, we are fortunate to see this bold idea translated into reality.

This is therefore a particularly fitting occasion to convey our deepest gratitude to His Highness the Aga Khan for his continued guidance which has helped us to remain on mission and within the budget hugely supported by the Aga Khan Development Network.

However, His Highness has often reminded us that building a university is not like making instant coffee--that you pour hot water and you stir. In fact, UCA is today at an infant stage as universities go. We have much work ahead of us if it is to become a world class research university in the decades ahead

As a university focused on the development of mountain societies, UCA has a special relationship with and an obligation to the communities of Naryn, Khorog and Tekeli which host our campuses.

Our long-term joint vision led by the town municipalities is to see these communities transformed into thriving University Towns where economic, social, and cultural opportunities abound for everyone. Together we are working to enhance the quality of life of the citizens through supporting the master planning of the towns and through provision of health and educational facilities, public parks and creating employment opportunities.

Let me now turn to you the graduates.
You were admitted by UCA on the basis of academic merit and your potential for leadership.

I recall some of you were nervous and unsure of how you would manage in your new environment.

However, having seen your progress through the past five years, I am really proud to see how remarkably well you have coped and your confidence is admirable. You are the beneficiaries of the hard work of your teachers and the product of this university.

While we celebrate your success, we await with much anticipation your service in the years ahead to your respective societies and to your alma mater as its alumni.

I conclude by leaving two thoughts with you as you embark on the next stages of your life.

Some twelve centuries ago, Al-Kindi, the great philosopher said, “we respect education because it teaches us values”.

It is our earnest hope that as you progress through personal and professional lives, you will be guided by the values imparted by this University; the values of honesty, integrity, respect for diversity and the practice of sound ethics in whatever you do.

Graduands, let me remind you of the t-shirt you wore during the orientation in 2016. It bore the slogan: “The Journey Begins Here”.

The first stage of that journey has culminated in your graduation today. Congratulations!

However, you are on the threshold of an exciting new journey that has just begun—a lifelong journey of discovery and learning.

Good Luck to you and Thank you.