On Saturday June 19, the University of Central Asia (UCA) celebrated the achievements of its inaugural cohort of graduates: the Class of 2021.  The live-streamed Convocation brought together students, family members, faculty and well-wishers across multiple countries and time zones around the world.

At this historic milestone event for UCA, graduates and faculty dressed in the newly designed academic regalia added a festive mood to the Convocation proceedings amidst the picturesque mountain landscapes of Khorog, Tajikistan and Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, according to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).

Historically, this part of the world is well-known for the renowned Silk Route – a trading passage that once connected China with the Mediterranean, via the high mountains of Central Asia.  This borderless journey led to an exchange of ideas and knowledge, and the region soon became a hub of invention and innovation.

Delivering the Chancellor’s address, His Highness the Aga Khan spoke of the strong bonds forged by UCA across frontiers, and the resulting potential to address the challenges of development in the region.

“Students of world history remind us how Central Asia, a thousand years ago, led the world in cultural and intellectual achievements,” said His Highness.  “This region is where medicine was founded, where algebra got its name, where the Earth’s diameter was precisely calculated, where some of the world’s greatest poetry was penned.”

“This happened because the societies were open to new ideas, open to change, open to scholars and people from many backgrounds.  That kind of openness can again unlock the doors to the future, and allows us to take on the great questions of our time and place.”

UCA is now well positioned to unlock these doors and address these great questions. The University employs an open-access philosophy, in which students are accepted solely on merit. The vast majority receive financial support.  Typically, 70 percent of students come from rural areas and small towns, and 50 percent are women.

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 the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, and His Highness the Aga Khan; ratified by their respective parliaments, and registered with the United Nations.  The Presidents are Patrons of the University and His Highness the Aga Khan is the Chancellor.  UCA brings with it the broader commitment and partnership of the Aga Khan Development Network.

As a university focused on the development of mountain societies, UCA's undergraduate programs are located at its purpose-built world class residential campuses in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, and Khorog, Tajikistan.  The Tekeli campus in the mountain ranges of Kazakhstan is expected to start classes in 2022.