The ringing bell ceremony at the University of Central Asia heralded the start of the new academic term of 2020-2021 at the School of Arts and Sciences.

Due to health and distancing requirements of Covid-19, all classes are being conducted online until it is safe to return to the University’s campuses in Naryn (Kyrgyzstan) and Khorog (Tajikistan), according to press release issued by the UCA.

Welcoming the students to the first day of classes on September 7, the Rector of UCA appreciated how well the students and faculty have been coping with the uncertainties and issues related to Covid-19.  “What defines us,” he said “is how we respond to such challenges.”  He hoped that the present health crisis will also teach us how to use technology in developing new methods of teaching and reaching remote communities.

Dr. Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of UCA, conveyed greetings on behalf of the Chancellor of the University, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the Trustees.  He reminded the students that while they were admitted on merit and potential for leadership, much is expected of them during the five-year course of study.  He hoped they would take full advantage of the resources available to them, on and off campus, and emphasized that students coming from diverse cultures represent a pluralistic ethos that is one of the unique aspects and strengths of UCA.

The new Dean of UCA remarked that he identified with the incoming class, because he himself came on board only a week ago.  “I am excited about working at UCA for many reasons,” said Dr. Maxim Khomyakov, “first because it is a development university with a mission to improve the quality of life of mountain communities.  Second, it is regional in nature, spanning three countries, and focused on research on issues Central Asia is facing or likely to face in the future.  Third, it is a start-up university, able to respond with nimbleness to challenges without being encumbered by tradition and set ways of doing things. In fact the School of Arts and Sciences will be graduating its very first class next year.”

The University of Central Asia’s focus on mountain communities has attracted over 70 percent of its students from rural areas and secondary towns; 55 percent are from Tajikistan, 23 percent from Kyrgyzstan, 11 percent from Pakistan, 5 percent from Kazakhstan, 4 percent from Afghanistan, and the balance 2 percent from various parts of the world.