NARYN, Kyrgyzstan (TCA) — The University of Central Asia (UCA), created to be a catalyst for social and economic development in the region’s mountain societies, on 19 October officially opened its first campus in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan.
The new buildings on the Naryn Campus represent the first phase of a larger plan for the 252-hectare site, which was a gift from the Kyrgyz Government. Phase I includes 14,000 square meters of space that can accommodate 150 students. It features state of the art classrooms, a library and laboratories; secure, modular student dormitories; faculty and staff residences; and athletic facilities of an international standard. When the final phase is complete, the campus will accommodate 1,200 students and span 125,000 square meters, the UCA said.
The secular, internationally chartered, not-for-profit University is a partnership between the governments of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
The ceremony, under the patronage of President Almazbek Atambayev, was officiated by Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov and His Highness the Aga Khan.
Prime Minister Jeenbekov spoke directly to UCA students by declaring that the University would provide them with “the knowledge and skills necessary for you to become future leaders in different areas”. Calling this “a gift for all of us”, he expressed his special gratitude to His Highness the Aga Khan for his long-term vision going on to say that, “the future of our country is in the hands of our youth. Quality professional education must therefore facilitate the preparation of young people.”
“It is important to know that what we are doing here will be a valuable example of international cooperation for the future not only here in the region, but also for people far beyond the region,” said His Highness the Aga Khan speaking at the ceremony. “What this University is all about is not only the power of education, but also the power of international cooperation. It is a power that can change peoples’ lives.”
He went on to note that UCA was “not a typical start-up university,” remarking on the University’s School of Professional and Continuing Education, which has already taught over 90,000 people ranging from members of parliament to computer technicians. He also remarked on the Humanities Project, which has attracted support from 77 other universities and colleges throughout Central Asia, and two of the University’s research arms, the Institute of Public Policy and Administration and the Mountain Societies Research Institute which are “already doing path-breaking research, cooperating with international partners on issues that will be central to the region’s progress.”
The launch of the Naryn Campus is to be followed by the construction of campuses of equal size and stature in Khorog, Tajikistan (scheduled to open in 2017) and in Tekeli, Kazakhstan (expected to open in 2019).
The economic impact of the University’s three campuses is projected to be more than US$750 million in the Central Asian region. In the first phase of construction, UCA created 600 new jobs in the Kyrgyz Republic (as well as 800 at the Tajikistan site). The University’s approach to planning and building is part of a larger strategy to boost local economies by sourcing local and regional materials, strengthening existing enterprises and promoting the establishment of new ones.