McMaster and the Aga Khan University renew ties

By FHS Advancement, November 24, 2008

    McMaster University President Peter George talks with His Highness the Aga Khan at the signing ceremony for a new memorandum of agreement between McMaster and the Aga Khan University. Photo by Susan Emigh
A memorandum of understanding has been signed by McMaster University and the Aga Khan University for a new stage to a 25-year collaboration which has developed international nursing schools.

On the weekend McMaster University President Peter George and President Firoz Rasul of the Aga Khan University (AKU) authorized the agreement in Toronto, in the presence of Canadas Minister of International Cooperation, The Honourable Beverly J. Oda and His Highness the Aga Khan, the Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. His Highness the Aga Khan is the Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network and Chancellor of AKU.

Presidents George and Rasul both noted that the partnership between the two universities had been profound and was the driving force of the renewed engagement.

"The Aga Khan University has shown remarkable leadership in educational and social development, and we have been pleased to offer our expertise in building capacity in health care education, particularly in nursing," said George.

"Our joint venture has shown the effectiveness of universities working together to address development challenges. We anticipate this second generation partnership will expand the benefits of our collaboration to many more countries."

Rasul said: "Our collaboration with McMaster raised the status of nursing in Pakistan, provided women with opportunities for professional development and leadership, and contributed to the health care system in the country."

"Over time, the impact of this partnership has extended beyond Pakistan to other countries where AKU has a nursing presence including Kenya Tanzania, Uganda, Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt, in terms of improving the quality of nursing education, and more generally strengthening the role and recognition of women professionals and their contributions to society."

"I view this as an agreement of a much wider spectrum of importance and outcome than you might think, simply by talking about the profession of nursing," said the Aga Khan at the ceremony.

"In the past years we have seen a number of countries in the developing world enter into the dimension of what I call failure of competent democratic government. A number of countries have run into difficulty; constitutional management, economic management, the management of pluralist societies. When governments are fragile, it is civil society which comes in and sustains the development process. Professional nursing, educating women, is an absolutely fundamental pillar to the building of society."

The Honourable Beverly J. Oda also acknowledged the significance of the growing partnership: "Recognizing the contribution of quality higher education to the creation of stable and prosperous societies, the Government of Canada has been a strong supporter of partnerships with the Aga Khan University."

"These investments have delivered tangible improvements in the quality of health care and education in Afghanistan, Pakistan, East Africa and beyond. CIDA recognizes that the agreement signed today between McMaster and AKU will enhance the vital exchange of knowledge and research between Canada and the developing world, and will continue to underwrite Canada's long-term development priorities."

Under the new agreement, the two universities will partner to support national nursing initiatives in select countries of Africa and Asia where the nursing profession has been neglected. Other areas including

AKU and McMaster will constitute an International Nursing Advisory Group of experienced nursing leaders to build national capacity and identify solutions for improving nursing education, practice and regulation.

McMaster's School of Nursing has been the essential link in the partnership of the two universities. which has supported the development of academic programs and leaders in nursing, especially women, to drive health policy reform in Pakistan.

A key outcome of this collaboration was a Post Registered Nurse Bachelor of Science in Nursing (Post RN BScN) programme at AKU, the first undergraduate level academic nursing programme of its kind in Pakistan. With financial support from the Canadian International Development Agency, the program focused on building a strong human resource base and on preparing leaders for the health sector.

Today, a majority of the graduates supported through this partnership hold key leadership positions in nursing in the public and private sector.