Improving education in Central Asia David Agnew, Seneca President and Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, Executive Chairman of the University of Central Asia (UCA)

Canada's Seneca College has reaffirmed a commitment to improving education in Central Asia through an innovative partnership with the University of Central Asia (UCA).

Seneca President David Agnew and Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, UCA's Executive Chairman of the Board Executive Committee and Diplomatic Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in the Kyrgyz Republic, commemorated the partnership at a signing ceremony in Ottawa. "We are delighted to deepen our existing collaboration with the University of Central Asia as it prepares to welcome its first cohort of undergraduates this fall. Seneca and UCA share a common belief that a world class education is one that offers a global perspective while empowering students to create social change both locally and internationally. We look forward to supporting UCA's efforts in Central Asia," Agnew said.

The partnership between UCA and Seneca is made possible by the financial support of Global Affairs Canada and Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC). Mahmoud Eboo, the AKDN Representative in Canada and Khalil Z. Shariff, Chief Executive Officer of AKFC, spoke about Canada's support to a broad range of AKDN initiatives in Central Asia and the role of education in improving quality of life in the developing world.

In 2015, UCA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Toronto-based Seneca to develop the English, mathematics and science curriculum for UCA's Preparatory Programme. The Programme will be offered to the first cohort of undergraduates at the UCA campus in Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic starting in September 2016.

Under the agreement, Seneca assessed the needs of Central Asian students for additional academic preparation to succeed at the university level. The resulting one-year curriculum encourages students to develop new ways of thinking and working through assignments with logical reasoning, critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Seneca also designed and delivered a professional development program for UCA faculty, including training in Central Asia and Canada, and will provide in-class assessments and longer-term online resources and video conferencing support.

"The University of Central Asia is strengthened by our dynamic partnership with Seneca College, a global institution in every sense. Our partnership with Seneca and support from the Government of Canada is rooted in a shared belief that a university should provide the highest calibre of education to all qualified students, regardless of their background. With Seneca's support, our inaugural class of students will receive a rigorous academic programme that will prepare them for a truly international standard of education," Kassim-Lakha said.

President Agnew also announced Seneca's support of 12 scholarships for talented students from Central Asia. Seneca will award Entrance Scholarships to four incumbent students, and will award four additional Merit Scholarships annually following a student's first year based on Grade Point Average (GPA) and demonstrated community service. Four Post-Graduate Tuition Scholarships will also be awarded to UCA alumni to pursue a one-year post-graduate certificate at Seneca in Canada.

Canada supports several UCA research and teaching initiatives in Central Asia and Afghanistan through Global Affairs Canada and the International Development Research Centre, including support to establish the University's Institute of Public Policy and Administration (IPPA). Global Affairs Canada has also supported UCA partnerships with the University of British Columbia, Carleton University and the University of Alberta.

UCA is building three residential campuses of the same stature, facility and standards. The Naryn campus will enrol its first students in September 2016, offering Communications and Media and Computer Science. The second campus opening in Khorog, Tajikistan in September 2017 will offer Economics as well as Earth and Environmental Sciences. The third campus, at Tekeli, Kazakhstan is anticipated in 2019 and will offer Engineering Sciences and Business and Management.

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