Asian University for Women
A Brief Description
Asian University for Women Support Foundation
P.O. Box 1945
The Rockefeller Center Station
New York, New York 10185, USA
Telephone: (212) 475-4419
Fax: (212) 353-9214
February , 2001
The Asia University for Women ("AUW") is slated to open
in September 2005 in Bangladesh. It is expected to be a world class,
liberal arts college that will attract and prepare intelligent and
talented young women from diverse backgrounds in Asia, with a special
emphasis on poor, rural women, for positions of political, financial,
cultural and social leadership and influence in the decision-making
processes of their respective countries. By bringing women together
in a supportive, intellectually rich and rigorous academic environment,
the university will spawn a network of professional women across
Asia who will be critical to the development and enrichment of their
countries and the region. As such, the AUW will serve as a model
of excellence that will raise regional expectations for access to,
and quality of, higher education for women; consequently helping
to improve the status of women as active participants in their societies.
The underlying premises for the university is the belief that discrimination
and the general disadvantaged status of women in Asia and the world
can be ameliorated and removed only with the participation of women
in the political, economic, social and cultural decision-making
processes in their countries. Although women's issues are not isolated
from national agendas, too often they remain neglected. These issues
must be addressed if our societies are to develop into full-fledged
modern democracies with equal participation of men and women in
all spheres of economic and political life of a country.
Higher education plays a crucial role in the modern world in which
socio-economic development is becoming more knowledge-intensive
and is relying increasingly on professional and managerial staff
with advanced training. Developing countries in particular need
to bridge the gap separating them from the industrially developed
world - and thereby reduce their dependence on external technical
and scientific assistance - by developing their own institutions
and programs of advanced studies and research. Throughout Asia,
the disparities between rich and poor and men and women are far
greater in access to higher education than to primary or secondary
Institutions of higher education also are critical for developing
far-sighted leadership. Without the participation of women in these
networks of influence, Asian societies will not be able to fully
advance and improve the quality of life and engender national prosperity.
Since women in Asia traditionally have had less, if any, access
to institutions of higher learning, the AUW expects to provide a
select and diverse group of women technical, innovative, entrepreneurial
and leadership skills to become the catalysts for change and gender-mainstreaming
in their local communities and nationally in their countries.
The rationale for establishing a single sex institution is two-fold.
First, for logistical reasons, many women would simply not be allowed
to live away from home if it were co-educational. Often for women
from such backgrounds, education is foregone entirely if opportunities
for education are not found in an all women contexts. Second, and
more importantly, the university will be able to offer a safe and
supportive space for women of all backgrounds to explore and develop
analytical and critical skills. It will be a place to develop confidence
and nurture a commitment to tackle major obstacles to women's full
political and economic participation. The university will provide
a setting for women to reflect on their individual and collective
roles in influencing and reshaping the underlying values and structures
that dominate their societies.
Historically, attempts to address the need for excellent, higher
education for women in Asia have not always met with success. The
best of the women's institutions have fallen short either in their
ability to attract students from the poorest sectors or in their
ability to generate resources to sustain high quality education.
And the co-educational institutions that have tried to address the
educational needs of women, have had limited appeal to women from
culturally conservative sectors. Additionally, unlike many of the
higher education institutions for women that simply inform and thus,
replicate and mimic traditional and dominant norms and practices,
the AUW will be committed to exploring and challenging the social,
political, cultural and economic structures that have excluded women
form actively participating in their societies.
In its attempt to reach a wide range of women with diverse experiences,
the university will focus on attracting poor, rural women who traditionally
have been the most excluded and thus disempowered group. Bringing
together talented women across economic and geographic and religious
and linguistic and cultural divides will enrich the students' education
and root their experience as women in the Asian context.
The AUW will strive to identify talented women, assist them in
the preparation for university entrance (it will offer remediation
programs for women from disadvantaged backgrounds) and then recruit
them for an extraordinary four-year education on campus, in a challenging
environment and supported by a growing network of similarly minded
At its peak, the university will have only 2,000 students. Its
focus will be on the power of example, inspiration to lead, rigor
and quality rather than on numbers. Nevertheless, the network of
students will inevitably grow rapidly. Moreover, through the application
of information communication technologies the innovations in teaching
and learning developed at the AUW could be accessed by possibly
tens of thousands of others in other universities and colleges as
well as people in their own homes.
The establishment of the AUW will be based on a broad partnership
between international and national governmental and non-governmental
organizations as well as private philanthropy.
The AUW will create an educational environment that will be financially,
culturally and logistically accessible to the most talented students
from a diversity of backgrounds. The creation of an endowment is
integral to this strategy.
Student recruitment will involve outreach feeder secondary schools,
particularly in rural areas across Asia.
It will provide a sensitive environment to issues of security and
religious practice and tolerance.
Execution and Implementation
The Government of Bangladesh has committed to provide the land
for the university and enacting laws that will guarantee its institutional
independence and academic freedom.
The AUW will enter into one or more partnerships with outstanding
institutions of higher education for women to ensure high quality
for the AUW and also offer opportunities for educational exchange
programs among internationally recognized "sister" schools.
Private donations will provide the basis for an endowment that
will help ensure the creation and perpetuation of the institution
as well as its ability to subsidize poor students. The endowment
will be based in the United States and will be managed under the
direction of the Board of Trustees of the Asian University for Women
Support Foundation, a tax-exempt organization formed in New York
to advance the establishment and development of the Asian University
Faculty members will be recruited locally, regionally and to a
lesser extent, globally. The faculty and staff will be of both sexes.
The university will offer a four-year curriculum; the first two
years will combine development studies and more traditional liberal
arts and basic science courses. The second two years will focus
on a specialization from a select group of disciplines that are
relevant to the Asian context. English will be the language of instruction.
There will be a strong emphasis on developing skills that enable
graduates to negotiate a decent livelihood in the market place.
It is estimated that more than $100 million will be required to
sufficiently finance an endowment that serves as a sustainable source
of scholarships as well as the costs of building the needed campus
infrastructure. The Government of Bangladesh has agreed to contribute
the required land.
A three-pronged funding strategy is envisaged: First, contributions
from individual philanthropists and foundations will be mobilized
for an endowment to finance scholarships to needy students; second,
an attempt will be made to persuade a coalition of bilateral and
multi-lateral agencies and other government entities to finance
the infrastructure development of the university; and third, resources
will be sought from private foundations and others to help defray
the operational costs of the initial years of the university's operation.
Organizational Management Structure
Overall responsibility for the AUW's establishment rests with the
International Support Committee (to be succeeded by the AUW
Board of Trustees). It will be responsible for recruiting leadership,
overseeing the design and construction of facilities, hiring faculty
and staff, designing the curriculum, recruiting students and managing
the resources and operations of the university. The International
Support Committee is co-chaired by Madame Lone Dybkjaer,
Member of the European Parliament (where she serves as First Vice
Chair of the Development Cooperation Committee) and former Danish
Minister of Environment and Madame Khaleda Zia, Prime Minister
of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. Other members of the Committee
Stephen J. Friedman is senior partner at the New York law
firm of Debevoise & Plimpton. Mr. Friedman, a U.S. national,
has served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Overseas
Mark Malloch Brown is Administrator of the United Nations
Development Programme. Mr. Malloch Brown, a British national, has
previously served as Vice President of the World Bank.
Koichiro Matsuura is Director-General of the United Nations
Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Mr. Matsuura,
a Japanese national, has previously served as the Ambassador of
Japan to France and in other high positions in the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs of Japan.
Thoraya Obaid is Executive Director of the United Nations
Population Fund (UNFPA). Ms. Obaid is a national of Saudi Arabia.
Mamphela Ramphele is Managing Director for Human Development
at the World Bank. A South African national, Dr. Ramphele was Vice
Chancellor of the University of Cape Town in South Africa prior
to joining the World Bank.
Mary Robinson is United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights. An Irish national, she served as the President of her country.
The Asian University for Women (AUW) Support Foundation has
been established as a New York not-for-profit corporation to assist
mobilize organizational, financial and intellectual resources for
the university. The AUW Support Foundation will also be responsible
for establishing and maintaining the university's endowment. The
Board of Directors of the AUW Support Foundation consists
of the following:
Kamal Ahmad is Corporate Attorney at Mayer, Brown & Platt
in London. He has previously worked with the World Bank, the Rockefeller
Foundation and UNICEF.
Robert Campbell is Chairman of the Board of Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation and former Chairman of the Board of Trustees
of Fordham University.
Juju Chang is Correspondent with ABC News.
Lone Dybkjaer is a Member of the European Parliament. She
has served as Minister of Environment in Denmark.
Stephen J. Friedman is Senior Partner at Debevoise &
Plimpton in New York. He has served as Chairman of the Board of
the Overseas Development Council in Washington, D.C.
Vivian Lowery Derryck is Senior Vice President of the Academy
for Educational Development & former Assistant Administrator
for Africa at the US Agency for International Development.
Alice Ilchman is Director of the Watson Fellows Program.
President Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, Ms. Ilchman has also
served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Jack R. Meyer is President of Harvard Management Company,
responsible for managing the endowment of Harvard University. Mr.
Meyer was previously the Treasurer of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Muneer Satter is Managing Director of Goldman, Sachs &
Diana Chapman Walsh is President of Wellesley College.
BRAC, a Bangladeshi non-governmental development agency
serves as the Asian Secretariat. It coordinates local planning activities,
oversee day-to-day operations, and facilitate links with local donors
and grassroots associations.
The Association of Commonwealth Universities in London serves
as the International Secretariat for developing the plan of operations.
It provides administrative support for recruiting consultants, international
fundraising and other general requirements.