In 1991, as independence swept across Central Asian countries, the region advanced deliberately into a fast-changing world of free markets and democracy. Leadership from a new generation provided a fresh perspective on how economic resources, information, and personal freedom could be nurtured in an open society. This wave of change spurred new ideas in the educational system resulting in the establishment of the Kyrgyz-American School (KAS) within the Kyrgyz State National University (KSNU) in Bishkek in 1993.
KAS experienced such dramatic growth over the next four years that it could no longer remain a school within KSNU and was poised to become an independent institution. In 1997, by a decree of the President of Kyrgyzstan, KAS became the American University in Kyrgyzstan (AUK), and an independent international Board of Trustees was established as the governing body.
AUK was soon admired internationally as a university based on the American liberal arts tradition of free and critical inquiry. Young scholars from 30 countries soon arrived for this new approach to education in Central Asia. In 2002, due to the University’s expanded mission and future vision, the Board of Trustees changed the name to reflect the University’s regional significance: the American University of Central Asia.
AUCA partnered with Bard College beginning in 2008 and created a partnership that, by granting Bard degrees to AUCA graduates in eleven academic disciplines, is improving the quality of education at AUCA specifically and in Central Asia generally. The two institutions are now striving to create a new generation of students who believe that they can both do good and do well over a lifetime of learning and work.
As AUCA emerges from its founding years, the University has established its reputation for dedication to democratic values, individual freedoms, and the spirit of innovation. It has played an important and central role in the educational system of this fast changing region. In a few short years the University has become one of the academic leaders in the Central Asian region. Founded on the liberal arts tradition and with self-governance, AUCA looks confidently to the future.