Jaipur- India: Aga Khan Foundation makes case for long-term investments in higher education to drive catalytic economic growth and social change

Jaipur, India, January 2018 – Matt Reed, CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation UK, spoke at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Friday 26th at a session entitled Beyond the University: Higher Education and Development.

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As questions continue to arise about the quality of Indian universities, the proportion of skilled labour in relation to the country’s employment rates and persistent inequality, Matt spoke about the impact universities can have for a country’s development.

Using examples of Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) investments in Central and South Asia, Matt highlighted the impact investment in quality higher education can have on not only ensuring the preparedness of graduates for the job market but also as significant generators of economic growth and social change.

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A recent high-profile example of this is the AKDN’s University of Central Asia (UCA); a USD $300 million investment in higher education located in three second-tier cities across Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan. UCA has a unique approach to learning that combines a broad-based liberal arts and sciences education to build critical thinking, analytic and technical skills and an experiential education to give students practical opportunities to apply what they learn to real-world problems. The objective is to establish a world-class regional university in the heart of Central Asia, producing highly qualified graduates with the knowledge and skills to become future leaders in their countries.

Through construction alone, UCA is creating 1,800 jobs, the majority of which are for local people. The campuses are generating 300 new faculty and staff jobs with over 80 % filled by Central Asians. In total, it is projected that UCA will have a USD $750 million economic impact on the region.

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Matt also discussed the results of a recent landmark study which found that the Aga Khan University (AKU) in Pakistan has an annual economic impact of USD $1 billion, including supporting 42,000 jobs. Significantly, the study also highlights the significant social impact of AKU including: Empowering women through the transformation the nursing profession; encouraging excellence, AKU was Pakistan’s first hospital accredited by the Joint Commission International; generating knowledge, for example seven of Pakistan’s top 10 health researchers are AKU faculty; making higher education accessible to more through a needs-blind, merit based application process; and making health care more affordable to more people through a financial support model that saw 700,000 low-income patients receive high-quality health care at AKU in 2017.

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Source: AKF UK

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