The University of Central Asia (UCA) was founded in 2000 as a private, not for profit, secular university through an International Treaty signed by the Presidents of the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, and His Highness the Aga Khan; ratified by their respective parliaments, and registered with the United Nations. The Presidents are Patrons of the University and His Highness is the Chancellor. UCA brings with it the broader commitment and partnership of the Aga Khan Development Network.
As a university focused on the development of mountain societies, UCA's undergraduate programmes are located at its purpose-built world class residential campuses in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, and Khorog, Tajikistan near the Tien Shan and Pamir mountains respectively. The Tekeli campus in the mountain ranges of Kazakhstan is expected to start classes in 2022. The towns of Naryn, Khorog, and Tekeli offer culturally and ecologically rich environments and communities. By locating the campuses in secondary cities and rural settings, UCA hopes to be at the heart of an intellectual and economic transformation in the region. The campuses are also located along the Silk Road, a historic trade and transportation route, which for centuries facilitated the global exchange of goods, cultures, and ideas.