The seed of the Aga Khan University was planted in 1964, when His Highness the Aga Khan announced his desire to build a premier medical centre consisting of a Hospital, a Medical College and a School of Nursing in Karachi. Its development, however, is a culmination of sixty years of commitment to health care by the Aga Khan Health Services, which presently operates 120 health units throughout Pakistan. In addition, about 130 primary and secondary schools operating in the country are sponsored by the Aga Khan Foundation, The Aga Khan Hospital and Medical College was part of this evolutionary process. it was felt that for effective health care in the country, medical education, oriented specifically to the needs of the country would be the most significant agent of change. This concept was emphatically supported by the President of Pakistan who, in recognition of the standards demonstrated by the Institution, granted University status to the Medical College and the School of Nursing in 1981.
The Charter of the University not only emphasises its initial commitment to health sciences, but also opens the way for it to organise programmes in other disciplines. The University controls its own finances, and is open to all who qualify academically regardless of race, religion, sex, creed, class or domicile. It is governed by an autonomous Board of Trustees whose members determine policies of the University, and a Rector responsible for its operations and administration. Academic freedom within the framework of the laws of Pakistan is assured. This includes power to administer the University’s academic functions, select and examine students, award degrees and diplomas, select and promote faculty, determine courses of study, pursue research, enter into affiliations, ensure freedom of expression in the teaching and research needs of academic personnel and support hospitals and other health programmes. Initially the University will consist of a Medical College which will begin classes in September 1983, with a capacity to graduate 100 doctors each year; the School of Nursing, which began classes in October, 1980, will train 110 nurses annually. Attached to these will be a 721-bed teaching Hospital which will begin admitting patients in 1984. The Project is expected to cost Rs. 3,000 million.
Departing from traditional concepts of medical education the curriculum is specifically designed to prepare future health professionals to work effectively with other health workers at the community level and serve the needs of the country in the urban as well as the rural areas.
The academic programmes of the Aga Khan University will be designed to identify problems facing Pakistan and the Third World Countries today, or which are likely to confront them in the future, so that human resources could be trained to respond to these issues. In due course the University plans to establish new faculties in Pakistan as well as in other countries and thereby achieve a truly international character. To achieve its academic goals, the University is collaborating with distinguished universities including Harvard in the United States and McGill and McMaster in Canada, as well as the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Pakistan. The care that has characterized every aspect of the University’s development is readily apparent in its architectural design. It responds both to the physical environment of the site and the culture of Pakistan. Buildings are designed to reflect the great traditions of Muslim architecture. Portals and courtyards unfold as a visitor moves through the complex which has been designed as an organic whole, cooled by reflective, running and splashing waters. Indigenous methods of environmental control have been utilized wherever possible. Major fenestration in the non-airconditioned areas open to the north. Air scoops and ventilation catch and channel prevailing breezes. Lush plantings and water in the courtyards help to temper the heat of the city.
The Government of Pakistan has generously supported this major philanthropic endeavor and has donated 84 acres of land and granted exemption from import levies on equipment from abroad. The objectives of the Aga Khan University are calculated responses to current and future needs of the nation; responses which stress the most effective possible allocation of resources and which-by example-aspire to lead the way to a new era of higher education in Pakistan, the Muslim World and the Third World Countries at large.