Aga Khan University

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Aga Khan University

File:AKU logo.gif

Established 1983
Type Private
Endowment >1 billion US
Chancellor His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV
President Mr. Firoz Rasul
Provost Dr. David Taylor - Acting Provost
Location , Pakistan, Kenya, United Kingdom, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Uganda, Syria, Egypt
Affiliations HEC, UGC

The Aga Khan University (AKU) is a coeducational research university spread over three continents. It was granted its charter in 1983 as Pakistan's first private, autonomous university.[1] AKU was founded by His Highness the Aga Khan, and is part of the Aga Khan Development Network. AKU is an international University with 11 teaching sites spread over 8 countries - Afghanistan, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, Syria, Egypt and the United Kingdom. Its principal campus is located in the metropolitan city of Karachi, Pakistan with another major teaching hospital in Kenya. A 450-million dollar campus is also planned for Arusha, in north-eastern Tanzania to be built in the next 15 years [2].

According to the Higher Education Commission (HEC) ranking of Universities in Pakistan, The Aga Khan University ranked first in Health Sciences, with a cumulative rank score higher than any other university in Pakistan.[3] The HEC also ranked the University number one overall in Pakistan based on the global impact of its research.[4]

AKU’s objective is to promote human welfare by disseminating knowledge and providing instruction, training, research and service in the health sciences, education, liberal arts, the sciences and such other branches of learning as the University may determine.[1]

Academic Profile

File:Aga Khan University.jpg
Grounds of the Aga Khan University

AKU is a non-denominational institution open to all, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, gender or national origin. Student enrollment is non-discriminatory and among the most competitive in Pakistan. AKU alumni, known as Akuites have gone on to assume faculty positions at several prestigious universities in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Forty-four percent of the University’s faculty are women, many in senior posts. Fifty percent of students in the Medical College are also women. The University’s admissions policy is needs-blind and based on merit. Over 33 percent of the students receive financial aid. AKU attracts students from all over Pakistan and several other countries, with diverse backgrounds, cultures and religions on one campus, fostering a sense of camaraderie, and friendship.

In its first two decades, AKU’s major development focus was in the fields of health and education. In the decade ahead, the University plans to move beyond professional education towards becoming a comprehensive university, with the establishment of a Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The new Faculty will offer postgraduate and professional training, with the objective of developing leaders for the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

In addition, the University is in the process of planning new academic and research units. These include an Institute of Economic Growth and Society and an Institute of Planning and Management of Human Settlements. Another programme under consideration is an Institute of Human Development, which would be dedicated to advancing the understanding of the effects and conditions of early childhood on subsequent well-being and performance, and the application of this understanding to the development of interventions and evaluation to assess their potential efficacy and applicability.

Scientific Research and Clinical Trials

The Aga Khan University accounts for 70% of all biomedical research in Pakistan while the remaining 30 per cent is shared by all the other institutions.[5] AKU emphasizes the importance of scientific research and maintains an advanced and organized infrastructure to support this endeavour. AKU publishes more research articles in peer-reviewed, indexed internationally recognised journals than any other university in Pakistan.[6] Scientific research is an integral part of the academic life at the University; faculty promotions are dependent on publications in indexed journals while most medical students have published by the time they graduate.

The University maintains a separate Research Office to guide and support research conducted at the University.[7] A University Research Council also funds grants after a competitive review process facilitated by a Grants Review Committee.[8] Particular emphasis is also placed on community related health sciences research. AKU also organizes several International and National research workshops and seminars. A Health Sciences Research Assembly is also held annually in which faculty and students present their research.[9] Recent discoveries made at AKU have made headlines in international and local news outlets.

The University is also the site for several NIH clinical trials.[10]

Campuses and facilities

The Aga Khan University is an international university, currently operating on campuses in Central and South Asia, East Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Existing campuses and international programmes include:

  • Faculty of Health Sciences located on a stunningly gorgeous 84-acre campus in the heart of Karachi, Pakistan, built with an estimated cost of 450 plus million US $ in the 1980s[11]
  • Aga Khan University Health Sciences campus in Nairobi, Kenya [12]
  • A USD $200 million campus for the University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences is currently under development in Karachi Pakistan. Five hundred sixty acres of land have been acquired just outside Karachi, and Payette Associates are the project architects. Student enrollment is planned for 2010 [13]
  • Institute for Educational Development in the Karimabad area of Karachi, Pakistan;
  • Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations in London, United Kingdom;
  • a major 450-million dollar campus planned for Arusha, in north-eastern Tanzania to be built in the next 15 years [14].
  • Advanced Nursing Studies (ANS) Programmes at campuses in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda;
  • Programmes for capacity development for teachers and nurses in Afghanistan, Egypt and Syria;

Sports and rehabilitation Centre

The Sports and Rehabilitation Centre is built in a landscaped setting at the AKU Health Sciences campus. The Centre offers facilities of international standard for various indoor, outdoor and water sports. Its Olympic-sized swimming pool is unique in Pakistan. Other features include a sports ground with three cricket pitches and a 480-metre jogging track, four tennis courts, a patients' rehabilitation centre, a children's play area, and a well-equipped gymnasium.


AKU has several well-equipped libraries on its campuses. The Jivraj Health Sciences Library and the Kurji Periodical Library in the Faculty of Health Sciences are considered among the best in Pakistan and have been recognised by the World Health Organization as training centres. The libraries add appropriate new titles and regularly update their collections, while also providing access to health and education literature databases through MEDLINE, CINAHL and ERIC.

  • Jivraj Health Sciences Library - Faculty of Health Sciences, Karachi
Holds 28,000 volumes of books and monographs, with additional books on CD-ROM.
  • Kurji Periodical Library - Faculty of Health Sciences, Karachi
Subscribes to nearly 500 journals in medical, nursing and basic science disciplines.
  • Institute for Educational Development Library - AKU-IED, Karimabad, Karachi
Subscribes to over 110 professional and scholarly journals, and stocks over 6,000 books and 1,200 reports.

Student Life

Students come from all over Pakistan and several other countries in the world, including the US, Canada and the Middle East after a highly rigorous admission process that includes a competitive entrance exam and interviews. AKU prides itself on the diversity of its student body. Most choose to live in the hostels on the gorgeous medical campus although a fair number of students are locally from Karachi. Male and female students have separate hostels located on campus.

A popular ritual is T-Half whereby medical students celebrate the half time to their graduation.


Faculty of Health Sciences

Medical College

Established in 1983, the Aga Khan University Medical College offers various undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Its curricular objectives include clinical competence both in community settings and hospitals, as well as the assessment of health and prevention of disease in communities through the primary health care programmes that AKU monitors in a number of urban squatter settlements.

The College has agreements with leading academic institutions, including Harvard University in the United States, McGill and McMaster Universities in Canada and Karolinska Institute in Sweden, which have contributed to faculty and curriculum development. More recent affiliations have been established with the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada and University of Alabama, USA. These partnerships enable higher training and research, specifically in areas where such opportunities are not available in Pakistan.

Programme offerings include:

A five-year undergraduate programme equivalent to US MD.
Designed to train professionals in strategic and operational planning, policy analysis, institutional management and in health systems research and development.

School of Nursing

The Aga Khan University School of Nursing (AKU-SON) was established in 1980, becoming the first academic component of AKU and its Faculty of Health Sciences. Since its inception, the AKU-SON has played a leading role in establishing an internationally acceptable model for nursing education and practice in Pakistan. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and McMaster University have provided valuable assistance to AKU-SON.

The School offers several programmes in nursing, including a three-year Diploma Programme, a four year BScN and a two-year Post RN BScN and a Master of Science in Nursing (MScN).

The University's first academic initiative outside Pakistan, the Advanced Nursing Studies (ANS) Programme, began in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in 2001. It is designed to improve the quality of patient care by encouraging practising nurses to enhance their expertise through the pursuit of higher education.

In 2000, AKU-SON received its Charter in the Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI).[15][16] STTI is an international honour society of nursing, with over a quarter million members representing more than 90 countries through its chapters in colleges and universities in Australia, Canada, China, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States.

Affiliated teaching hospitals

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Based on the strategic vision outlined in the Aga Khan University Chancellor's Commission Report of 1994[17] the University is in the process of creating a Faculty of Arts and Sciences (AKU-FAS). The Faculty will be located on a new campus just outside Karachi, Pakistan and by 2012 is expected to have up to 1,600 students. It will offer a liberal arts education with the aims of developing skills in critical thinking and analysis, raising proficiency in verbal and written communication, enhancing human resource development in the region, and advancing understanding in particular academic disciplines.

The Faculty's academic prospectus has been developed by a planning group chaired by Dr Robert Edwards, an AKU Trustee and former President of Bowdoin College, and was approved by the University's Board of Trustees in December, 2002. In addition to undergraduate programmes, the Faculty plans to develop a limited number of graduate programmes in its areas of strength, and expects to contribute to widening the curriculum for students in the Medical College and the School of Nursing.

Institute for Educational Development

The Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED) was established in 1993. Its facilities are located in a Professional Development Centre (PDC) which functions as a training and support facility for professional teachers and education managers.

AKU-IED focuses on the development of educational systems in the developing world. Its major focus is on improving the performance of teachers and other stakeholders (education managers belonging to public and private sectors) through professional development, ultimately leading to school improvement. It also engages in outreach activities through a network of Professional Development Centres in Pakistan, Central Asia and East Africa.

The Institute offers a series of professional development programmes for teachers and other educators, as well as graduate programmes.

Professional programmes:

  • A two-month Certificate in Education: Curriculum Areas
  • A ten-week Certificate in Education: Educational Leadership and Management
  • A one-year field-based Advanced Diploma in Education: Curriculum Areas
  • A one-year Advanced Diploma in Education: Educational Leadership and Management

Graduate programmes:

  • Master of Education programme
Focused on teacher education. The aim of the programme is to produce graduates who are exemplary teachers and effective teacher educators.
  • PhD programme
A four-year, full-time programme that aims to develop high quality educational researchers who will be able to undertake a range of responsibilities and leadership roles in research and development.

The Institute offers its programmes in cooperation with schools and a number of partner institutions including the Aga Khan Education Services, non-governmental organizations, community-based organisations, and some public educational institutes. It has developed these programmes with assistance from its partners - the University of Toronto and the University of Oxford.

Examination Board

The Aga Khan University Examination Board (AKU-EB) offers high quality examinations in English and Urdu, conforming with international standards for examinations. It was established in response to appeals made to University in 1995 by a group of schools in Karachi seeking an alternate examination board that encouraged the development of reasoning and critical skills rather than rote learning in its examinations. Following consultations with educationists, policy makers and successive government administrations, the University's Board of Trustees approved the proposal in 2000. The AKU-EB was granted recognition by the Government of Pakistan through an Ordinance passed in November, 2002. Partial funding for the establishment of the AKU-EB came from USAID,[18] sparking opposition by conservative religious parties in Pakistan.[19]

Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

In 2002, the University established the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) in the United Kingdom. The Institute aims to strengthen research and teaching on the heritage of Muslim societies in all its historic diversity. The Institute studies systems of moral and ethical thought, structures of governance and public life and artistic and creative expressions in all forms. In addition, the Institute will seek to create opportunities for interaction among academics, traditionally trained scholars and other professionals so as to deepen understanding of pressing issues of public life affecting Muslim societies.

Institute's programme offerings:

  • Master of Arts in Muslim Cultures
  • Certificate Course for Educators

Impact of AKU on Society

Since its inception, AKU has had a significantly measurable impact on the Pakistani society.

  • AKU has brought international-quality medical education and health-sciences education to Pakistan.
  • AKU's role in nursing education in Pakistan is unparalleled removing the stigma associated with a nursing profession and instead making it a prestigious and competitive career.The nursing program has helped give women a noble profession, a dignified profession, and given them social standing in a community where women are not generally held in high standing.
  • AKU holds regular clinics and teaching sessions at the katchi abadis or slums of Karachi
  • AKU played a major role in the relief efforts after the terrible 2005 Pakistan earthquake [20]

Role of Religion in the University

Although AKU was established by the Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, the University is open to people of all religions and does not discriminate on the basis of religion. The campus has students, faculty and staff of both genders and a variety of religious backgrounds, including Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Parsis and atheists. The fact that the number of Ismailis among the student and faculty body is low, is a testament to the merit-based admissions and hiring process at the university. AKU is among the few institutions in Pakistan where open and contentious academic debate on religion is possible.


File:AKU logo.gif
The AKU Seal

The Seal (Logo) of the Aga Khan University is a visual representation of the principles which underlie the founding of the University.[21] The circular form of the Seal has its visual roots in the rosettes of early Islamic periods. It also symbolizes the world and reflects the internationality of the Aga Khan University. At the centre of the Seal is a star or sun representing light - a universal symbol of the enlightenment that education provides. The light is also symbolic of Nur (Divine light). The star incorporates 49 points to commemorate the University's founding by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.

The outer ring circumscribes a Quranic Ayat (3:103) rendered in classic thuluth script and reads as follows:

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتََ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ اِذْ كُنْتُمْ اعْدَاءً فَالَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَاصْبَحْتُمْ بِنِعْمَتِهِ اِخْوَنًا وَكُنْتُمْ عَلَى شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِنْ النَّارِ فَانْقَذَكُمْ مِنْهَا كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ءايَتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

The English translation reads:

And hold fast,
All together, by the rope
Which God (stretches out for you),
And be not divided among yourselves,
And remember with gratitude
God's favour on you:
For ye were enemies
And He joined your hearts
In love, so that by His grace
Ye became brethren

Notable Alumni, Professors and Staff

A list of notable alumni, professors and staff affiliated with the Aga Khan University can be found here.

Aga Khan University in Popular Culture

In International News

In Popular Television Dramas

  • The popular Pakistan Television Drama serial from the 1980s, tanhaiyan, arguably one of the greatest plays ever aired on PTV, featured the picturesque lakes on the AKU Medical campus and the inside of AKU Hospital wards.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Aga Khan University Charter". Retrieved 2006-12-04.
  2. "Aga Khan Announces the East African Community's First Regional University to be based in Arusha". Retrieved 2007-08-19.
  3. "HEC Ranking of Universities". Retrieved 2006-1-1. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  4. "HEC Ranking of Universities based on impact of research". Retrieved 2007-4-9. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. "Need stressed to promote research". Retrieved 2007-03-29.
  6. "Need stressed to promote research". Retrieved 2007-03-29.
  7. "AKU Research Office". Retrieved 2007-04-08.
  8. "AKU Grants Review Committee". Retrieved 2007-04-08.
  9. "Health Sciences Research Assembly 2006", The Aga Khan University Newsletter, 7 (2), p. 4, September, 2006, retrieved 2007-04-08 Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. "NIH trials at the Aga Khan University". Retrieved 2006-12-21.
  11. "HARVARD TO AID IN DEVELOPING PAKISTANI TEACHING HOSPITAL". Retrieved 1981-12-21. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  12. "Aga Khan University Announces the Faculty of Health Sciences in East Africa". Retrieved 2007-03-19.
  13. "AKU-Faculty of Arts and Sciences". Retrieved 2007-03-19.
  14. "Aga Khan Announces the East African Community's First Regional University to be based in Arusha". Retrieved 2007-08-19.
  15. "AKU-SON: Rho Delta Chapter History". Retrieved 2007-01-23.
  16. "Sigma Theta Tau International". Retrieved 2007-01-23.
  17. "Report of the Chancellor's Commission 1994 - Aga Khan University". Retrieved 2006-12-03.
  18. "USAID Awards US $4.5 Million Grant to Establish AKU's Examination Board". Retrieved 2003-7-13. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  19. "The Aga Khan University-Examination Board: Does Pakistan Need One?". Retrieved 2004-9-21. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  20. "News on AKU Efforts for the Earthquake Relief Operations". Retrieved 2006-12-02.
  21. "The Seal - AKU Convocation 2006". Retrieved 2006-12-02.
  22. "AKU leading the Y2K campaign". Retrieved 1999-09-20. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  23. "The Mystery of the Persian Mummy". Retrieved 2001-09-20.

See also

External links

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