In what a historic milestone, President Emomali Rahmon Friday (Sept 14) inaugurated the campus of University of Central Asia (UCA), the first regional university, in Tajikistan. Khorog campus is the second to become operational since its Naryn campus was inaugurated in Kyrgyzstan in 2016.
The UCA was founded in 2000 as “a private, not for profit, secular university” under an international treaty signed by the presidents of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan as its patrons, and His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims as its chancellor.
Its charter was ratified by the respective parliaments of the three Central Asian states and registered with the United Nations.
Addressing a gathering of 1,000 guests, President Rahmon noted, “the University of Central Asia in Khorog opens a new page in our country’s education system… I am convinced that the operation of this newly-established facility will benefit not only our country, but it will also strengthen the multifaceted cooperation between the countries of the region in the field of education.”
UCA Board of Trustees’ chairman Dr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha expressed deep appreciation to the President of Tajikistan for his foresight and commitment to higher education. He also offered special gratitude to His Highness the Aga Khan, “whose vision, continued stewardship, and attention to every aspect of this university have enabled us to witness this special day.”
The varsity’s mission is to promote the social and economic development of Central Asia, particularly its mountain communities, by offering an internationally recognised standard of higher education, and enabling the peoples of the region to preserve their rich cultural heritage as assets for the future, Mr Lakha said.
The majors offered at the Khorog campus are economics, earth, and environmental sciences; and at the Naryn campus, computer science, media and communications are offered. The University’s third campus in Tekeli, Kazakhstan, is expected to open by 2022 and will offer business management and engineering sciences.
The university’s Mountain Societies Research Institute is also located at the Khorog campus to allow closer integration with the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. This institute is also involved in developing the research capacity of the faculty of Natural and Biological Sciences at Khorog State University.
Since 2006, the UCA’s School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE) has been responding to community needs with 12 learning centres in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, as well as six in Afghanistan. Over 12,000 learners participate in these courses each year, of which 53 percent are women. To date, over 120,000 have graduated from the school’s programmes.
The architectural design of the master plan was prepared by the award-winning Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. The buildings on the campus, which represent its first phase, were constructed largely by small and medium-size Tajik contractors to ensure maximum economic benefit for the local and regional economy.
The investment of $95 million in the Khorog campus was provided by the AKDN, supplemented by a soft loan from the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
In the first phase of campus construction, UCA operations created more than 1,400 jobs in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, 90% of which were offered to local residents. The university also created over 200 permanent new faculty and staff jobs in Naryn and Khorog.
To extend quality healthcare services to the local community, AKDN’s Khorog Medical Centre is currently under development. In addition, two kindergartens and a training centre for early childhood educators have also been established.
In Khorog, UCA has also played a positive role in improving infrastructure, by paving roads to Dasht Village from the main town, a gravel road to upper Dasht Village and an access road from the community of Khitjd. The university also installed streetlights in the area.