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DUSHANBE (TCA) — The first private regional university in Tajikistan was inaugurated by Tajik President Emomali Rahmon on 14 September 2018. The formal opening of the University of Central Asia’s Khorog campus is another historic milestone, and the second campus to go into operation since its Naryn campus was inaugurated in Kyrgyzstan in 2016.

The University of Central Asia (UCA) was founded in 2000 as a private, not for profit, secular university through an International Treaty signed by the Presidents of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, and His Highness the Aga Khan; ratified by the respective parliaments, and registered with the United Nations. The Presidents are the Patrons of the University, and His Highness is the Chancellor.

Addressing a gathering of 1000 guests, President Rahmon said that “the University of Central Asia in Khorog is opening 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.”

On behalf of UCA, Dr. Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, expressed deep appreciation to the President of Tajikistan for gracing the occasion, and 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.”

UCA’s mission is to promote the social and economic development of Central Asia, particularly its mountain communities, by offering an internationally recognized standard of higher education, and enabling the peoples of the region to preserve their rich cultural heritage as assets for the future. The University brings with it the commitment and partnership of the broader Aga Khan Development Network.

The majors offered at UCA in Khorog are Economics and Earth and Environmental Sciences. At the Naryn campus it is Computer Science and Media and Communications. The campus in Tekeli, Kazakhstan, is expected to open by 2022, and will offer Business Management and Engineering Sciences.

The Mountain Societies Research Institute of UCA 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, including 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 SPCE’s programmes.

The architectural design of the master plan of UCA was prepared by the award-winning Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. The buildings on the campus represent only its first phase, and were constructed mainly by small and medium size Tajik contractors to ensure maximum economic benefit for the local and regional economy. The investment of US $95 million in the Khorog campus was provided by the Aga Khan Development Network, supplemented by a soft loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation of the United States.

In the first phase of campus construction, UCA operations created more than 1,400 jobs in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, with 90% being local residents. The University also created over 200 permanent new faculty and staff jobs in Naryn and Khorog.

In Khorog, UCA has paved 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. To extend quality healthcare services to the Khorog community, the Aga Khan Development Network’s Khorog Medical Centre is also under development. In addition, two kindergartens and a training centre for early childhood educators have also been established.

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