Transforming the University

A quarter century has passed since the University’s first graduating class listened as its Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, spoke of the principles on which AKU was founded: excellence, tolerance, compassion, integrity, freedom of inquiry and, as he described it, “intellectual restlessness.” In concluding his address, he remarked: “If time confirms and consolidates your belief in these principles too, it is my request that you should sustain and defend them as we have done for you.”

Today, it is clear our graduates have heeded his call. This Report offers compelling testimony to their accomplishments, and to those of the University as a whole.

Yet if AKU is to demonstrate the impact that is its ultimate goal, it must go beyond its traditional focus on educating doctors, nurses and teachers. It must develop into a comprehensive university. At a time when the challenges the developing world faces refuse to be contained by geographic or disciplinary boundaries, we must assemble networks of thinkers who can address issues in all their complexity and interconnectedness. And we must educate leaders who can harness diverse perspectives and talents to solve urgent problems and create remarkable innovations.

That is why we have developed an ambitious plan to launch undergraduate liberal arts programmes that put the experience of intellectual and social diversity at their heart; to establish graduate schools of professional education marked by a common emphasis on ethics and leadership; and to expand geographically while forging links that make it possible to transfer knowledge and expertise within and across regions.

Our Faculties of Arts and Sciences in Karachi and Arusha, Tanzania, will provide talented young people in South/Central Asia and East Africa with a liberal arts education whose breadth and depth will be unrivalled in their regions. Located on breathtaking new campuses equipped with the latest learning and research infrastructure, they will attract outstanding scholars and researchers from around the world. A core curriculum will develop students’ creativity of thought and vision, introducing them to the study of history, civilisations, literature, the arts, ethics, social analysis, mathematics and science.

Majors in fields such as Politics, Philosophy and Economics and Earth and Environmental Sciences will enable them to develop a deeper expertise in one or more disciplines crucial to their region’s future. Summers will be used for independent research, internships and international study. A wealth of extracurricular activities will ensure that substantial learning and leadership development happen outside the classroom. The result will be graduates who are prepared to succeed in the 21st century knowledge economy, to lead change in their societies and to thrive in a cosmopolitan world.

Joining the Faculties of Arts and Sciences in the transformation of AKU will be our Graduate Professional Schools in East Africa and Pakistan. These will offer master’s degrees in Leadership and Management; Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism; Architecture and Human Settlements; Government, Public Policy and Civil Society; Economic Growth and Development; and Law. They will equip graduates with the specialized expertise and leadership skills needed to launch and manage enterprises in the commercial, social and public sectors. Already, we have established the first of these: the Graduate School of Media and Communications in Nairobi, whose mission is to foster an independent, ethical, diverse and responsible media and communications sector in East Africa and beyond.

At the same time that the University launches programmes in fields outside its traditional areas of emphasis, it will also continue to build upon its achievements in health care education and service and teacher education.

In Nairobi, AKU will offer undergraduate nursing and medical degree programmes to develop nurses and doctors from across East Africa who can improve health care quality and access. In Dar es Salaam, we will create a new campus for the Institute for Educational Development. In Kampala and Arusha, we will build teaching hospitals that provide a level of care currently unavailable in these areas. In Rwanda and Burundi, as well as in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, we will construct health clinics to bring quality care to underserved populations. In Afghanistan, we will continue to invest in the French Medical Institute for Children, where AKU is already training specialist physicians in seven fields. In southern Egypt, at the request of the government, the University will assist in the development of nursing curricula.

Essential to our vision for the future is our commitment to collaboration and connection across boundaries of all kinds. Thus, while separated by thousands of kilometres, the Faculties of Arts and Sciences will be linked by a shared focus on the Indian Ocean as a site of exchange among cultures. Pedagogy within the Graduate Professional Schools will break down the walls between academic study and professional practice through applied learning. Our new medical and nursing degree programmes will promote cooperation across professional lines by educating nurses and doctors together, while our new hospitals and clinics will expand the reach of what is already an international health care network. And in keeping with AKU’s longstanding approach to fostering excellence, each of our new endeavours will form strong partnerships with globally renowned institutions.

The investment required to bring this transformation to fruition will be great.

I am pleased to report that as more and more people discover AKU, it is attracting significant financial support from individuals, families, corporations, foundations and governments around the globe. The entire University community is indebted to their generosity and foresight. With their support and that of others like them – plus the hard work of our leadership, faculty, staff, students and alumni – I have no doubt that, as our Chancellor predicted at that first convocation, AKU and its vision will increasingly “catch the imagination of the world.”

Firoz Rasul
President and Chief Executive Officer, The Aga Khan University