The majors enable students to acquire powerful intellectual tools for illuminating reality and shaping the world. Through their major, students develop both confidence and humility, as they begin to master different modes of inquiry and to discover what it takes to add to humanity’s store of knowledge. Students select their major by the end of their second year and spend most of their third- and fourth-years taking courses within it. The four majors are:

  • Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

  • Social Development Studies

  • Philosophy, Politics and Economics

  • Human and Environmental Biology

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies 

The major in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is an interdisciplinary programme that aims to develop in-depth knowledge about Asia and Middle East. The major prepares​ students to critically assess and analyse historical and contemporary phenomena and developments. The major also aims to educate students in social sciences and humanities theories, as well as provide opportunities to develop methodological skills.  

The major is suitable for students who would like to pursue a career in academia, NGO and business sectors, and diplomatic careers. It is also a suitable for journalists and teachers who would like to develop their understanding of Asia and the Middle East. The major is taught by active researchers working for AKU in Karachi as well as from AKU globally.  

Social Development Studies

This major addresses the increasing focus on social aspects of development in policy, planning, and practice. It adopts a critical approach to ethical and people- centred development for promoting wellbeing and equitable citizenship in the context of highly diverse societies particularly in urban contexts. The SDS major will enable students to critique the development interventions from a socio-cultural perspective especially in the Global South.  

In the first two years students will be introduced to courses espousing foundational knowledge and skills including critical thinking, problem solving, quantitative reasoning, civil society engagement, and global citizenship. In the third- and fourth-years, students will engage with courses that draw largely on the disciplines of gender studies, education, development studies, and urban sociology. 

Academic work and community engagement are integral to the SDS major. Graduates will be prepared for professional roles in fields such as social work, community organisation, education, communications, advocacy, public service, international relations, and across the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Alternatively, students can also further these fields and more through continuing studies in higher learning, applying to schools of education, development, sociology, public policy, and business.

Philosophy, Politics and Economics 

In fragile and emerging democracies with weak governance and management systems, youth need to be prepared for ethical leadership in civil society and in government, to play a transformative role in and for society. However, very few programmes of study are on offer to deliver on this purpose, especially in the low- income countries where the Aga Khan University operates. 

There is enduring conviction that the study of economic, social, political and philosophical thought will bring transformative effects on students’ intellectual lives, and thereby on society at-large. 

Thus, the PPE major, as the name indicates, draws from three major disciplines:  

  • Philosophy develops analytical, critical and logical rigour, enabling students to formulate deep questions.  

  • Politics provides a thorough understanding of the impact of political institutions on modern societies. It helps youth to evaluate the choices that political systems must regularly make to explain the processes that maintain or evolve those systems, and to examine the concepts and values used in political analysis.  

  • Economics is the study of how consumers, firms and government make decisions that collectively determine how and where resources are allocated. An appreciation of economics has become increasingly necessary to make sense of governmental policy-making, the conduct of businesses and the enormous economic transformations emerging in the world. 

In the first two years students will examine core concepts and develop foundational skills including mathematical and quantitative reasoning. The programme is highly flexible, allowing students to concentrate on two branches within PPE or study all three. Consistently, however, all students will be challenged to outline connections, interdependencies, tensions, and synergies among the branches of PPE and as they are exteriorised in differing contexts of interest.  

The PPE major will prepare students for a wide range of careers centering politics and government, public policy, law, economics, international relations, business and management, amidst many others. Academically, students who are interested to make their contribution to evolving the fields of theory and praxis within and surrounding PPE will be prepared for entry into numerous schools and disciplines in higher education.  

Human and Environmental Biology 

​Human life and the health and future of our planet are intricately linked. At no other time in history has this integral relationship been more evident. For example, the impacts of climate change are palpable in everyday life. The comprehensive study of humans and the world they inhabit is critical at this juncture to ensure the wellbeing of both.

Through an interdisciplinary approach, an exciting and stimulating array of courses will be drawn from relevant fields of study. One strand will examine humans from the molecular to the macroscopic levels, relating structure to function through topics such as development, genetics, evolution, physiology, and anatomy. The second strand will enable students to understand the environment in the context of the many species (including humans) that interact with it, focusing on climate change. The interweaving of strands will provide students with multiple opportunities to not only understand the science explaining climate change and study the processes of mitigation and adaptation but, critically, the disposition to construct more meaningful and responsible relationships with nature.

In their initial years, students will gain a foundation in core and shared areas in the two fields, through courses in biology, climate change, and contemporary issues in science and society. In the upper years, students will take advanced courses in the two strands of human and environmental biology. They will be challenged to locate and examine the often-complex interdependencies emergent between and within these fields in different social, cultural, and political settings, and consider the concomitant ethical issues.

Through the HEB major, students will be equipped for diverse and much-needed natural and physical sciences career trajectories that depend on critical thinking and practical hands-on skills. Students can become researchers of human health and disease, agricultural or food scientists, biotechnologists, health communication specialists, agronomists, leaders for environmental welfare organizations, advocates for the effective management of harvested natural resources, or serve as custodians of biodiversity. Students will also be ready to pursue upper-level study in a range of new and more established disciplines including environmental biology, conservation biology, biology and biological sciences, environmental and climate sciences, sustainable development, and public policy to name a few.​​