Reflecting on the U of A's partnership with the Aga Khan University on their 40th anniversary

Our long-standing partnership has created, and continues to create, a local and global impact.

The Aga Khan Garden at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden

The Aga Khan Garden at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden.

As a global university, the University of Alberta has hundreds of partnerships with institutions and organizations worldwide. Among these is our long-standing engagement with the Aga Khan University (AKU), dating back to 2006. This week, our friends at AKU celebrate their 40th anniversary, and it is the perfect time to reflect on how much we have accomplished together. From training medical staff in East Africa to collaborating on research in women’s reproductive health and social determinants of women’s health in Pakistan, our partnership has created, and continues to create, a local and global impact.

Aga Khan University: Empowering people to realize their highest goals

Since its beginnings in 1983 as the first private university in Pakistan, AKU has quickly grown to become an international and intercontinental university, offering diverse academic programs spanning five countries and numerous teaching sites.

As a non-profit institution, AKU’s mission is to empower the people of the developing world with the knowledge and skills to realize their highest goals, and it is achieving this vision. AKU was recently ranked among the world’s top 500 universities, among the top 250 universities in medical research, and in the top 30 universities in public health. Accomplishing this much in such a short time in comparatively resource-poor countries in South Asia and East Africa testifies to the commitment of AKU’s leadership, faculty, and staff, and their belief in the institutional mission.

Reflecting on the impact of the U of A’s partnership with AKU

The U of A is proud to have played a significant supporting role in AKU’s growth over the past 17 years. What started in 2006 as a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to facilitate cooperation in health sciences has blossomed into partnerships across many disciplines and units on our campuses.

Here are a few highlights of our collaborative achievements over the years:

  • Faculty members from the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry contributed to the development of AKU’s world-class cardiac sciences training program at its hospital in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Professors in the Faculty of Arts have supported AKU to develop the integrated core curricula for its new Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
  • Faculty of Education partnered with AKU to build capacity for mathematics teaching in remote communities in Tanzania through a five-year, $3 million project.
  • Faculty of Nursing has trained many PhD and Master's students from AKU, some of whom later returned to become faculty members there, and went on to play critical roles in building nursing education and capacity in Pakistan and East Africa.
  • AKU librarians shadowed their counterparts on our campus, and our staff spent time at libraries on AKU campuses in Pakistan and Kenya. The U of A has also collaborated with AKU on an information literacy program for librarians, through the development of online teaching units that can be adapted to multiple AKU library locations.
  • 45 U of A students (and counting) participated in internships in eight countries in Asia, Africa and Europe through AKU’s International Internship Programme.

To see the lasting impact of our partnership in person, I recommend you visit the spectacular Aga Khan Garden and Diwan. The garden was gifted by His Highness, the Aga Khan, through the Aga Khan Development Network, AKU’s parent organization, and facilitated through the Botanic Garden.

This list of joint initiatives is just the tip of the iceberg, but it demonstrates why our partnership has benefited many stakeholders in both institutions and beyond. It is a partnership that has been unusually productive and deserves to be celebrated today as AKU marks its 40th Anniversary.

On behalf of the U of A community, I extend my best wishes to our friends at AKU on this auspicious occasion. We look forward to what our collaborations over the next 40 years will bring.

Dr. Cen Huang
Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President (International)