The University of Central Asia (UCA) and the University of Cambridge came together to sign historic partnership agreements at ceremonies in Cambridge and London on 25 and 26 February 2020. The events in the UK were attended by Princess Zahra, along with senior leaders from UCA and the University of Cambridge.

A Memorandum of Understanding signed on 25 February at Cambridge’s Old Schools Building, will enable the two institutions to promote academic partnership, and collaborate in areas such as joint research, faculty and student exchange, as well as sharing academic and educational material.

Speaking at the event, Princess Zahra noted that Mawlana Hazar Imam, as Chancellor of UCA, was very pleased with this relationship which “he sees as seminal to helping young universities like UCA.”

Dr Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, chairman of the Board of Trustees at UCA, said in Cambridge  that Hazar Imam “has often reminded us that there are two measures of success of any university; the careers of its graduates and the quality of research, which is carried out in the universities, and then used for the benefit of the communities it serves.”

The renewal of a partnership agreement between the Cambridge Trust and the University of Central Asia, signed the following day at the Aga Khan Centre in London, builds on an earlier collaboration signed in 2017. The agreement will enable outstanding students from UCA and the surrounding regions of Central Asia, to gain a Masters or PhD degree at the University of Cambridge.

The ceremony in London was preceded by a keynote address by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Stephen Toope, who spoke about the internationalisation of higher education and its role in development. 

“Internationalisation in higher education is of course well exemplified by the Aga Khan Development Network, and its educational agencies in Central Asia, Pakistan, and East Africa,” he said. In his address, Professor Toope highlighted that the greatest leaps in knowledge occur when disciplinary and geographical boundaries are crossed.

Also speaking on the occasion, Helen Pennant, director of the Cambridge Trust, said “Following a decade of excellence in partnership, I am delighted to renew this valuable collaboration which will enable more talented students from Central Asia to come to Cambridge.”

“The Cambridge Trust is proud to partner with the University of Central Asia to develop their future faculty and the communities they serve," added Barbara Stocking, acting chair of the Cambridge Trust.

Together, the two partnership agreements build on the University of Cambridge’s centuries-old commitment to academic excellence and on the application of knowledge for wider social good. The intention is to benefit scholars and researchers at both institutions and the agencies of AKDN globally.

“Globally influential universities must harness the power of strategic partnerships,” said Professor Toope, underlining the importance of higher education institutions in contributing to intellectual and economic development around the world. 

“Let us never forget how our universities’ missions and our universities’ pools of talent allow us, perhaps more than any other type of institution on this planet, to create, curate, and communicate the knowledge that can help to improve the world.”