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The Asian University for Women is located in Chittagong, a coastal city in South East Bangladesh that has a heritage of Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Chittagong is the second largest city in Bangladesh with a population of approximately 4.5 million. It is the country’s international port and as such, it has historically served as a principal center for cultural, social, and commercial exchange between this part of South Asia and the outside world. Chittagong lies 264 kilometers south east of the nation’s capital, Dhaka, to which it is well connected by air, road and rail. Chittagong has a far less dense urban environment than Dhaka, and offers a less chaotic urban experience – a unique and still largely unspoiled landscape of rolling hills, with a large lake and recreational area – all within the city limits.
The site consists of rolling hills, deep valleys, permanent and intermittent streams, and spectacular views toward the Bay of Bengal and the city. It lies 6 km north of the commercial center, approximately 8 km from Chittagong University, 15 km from the city’s international airport, and is immediately adjacent to the Foy’s Lake recreational area. The land surrounding the AUW site represents one of the last undeveloped areas of Chittagong’s unique hilly landscape. Locating the University campus within the city limits, but in an undeveloped area where its closest neighbors are a golf course and a military cantonment and the Foy’s Lake natural area to the south, offers a degree of separation from the activities of the city center and other campuses and, in this sense, a greater degree of security and seclusion. Moreover, from this location AUW can have a strong voice in determining the character of its immediate neighborhood by acting as both a catalyst and guide for the urban growth that will eventually surround it.
Locating the university in Bangladesh affirms AUW’s dedication to the region. Bangladesh’s history of state and private sector commitment to advancing education, as well as its secular political culture and a number of notable NGOs involved in women’s empowerment, provides an excellent context for a school with the explicit mission to graduate women leaders and change agents.
Indeed, Bangladesh has immense potential to serve as an ideal host for the University. According to the 2005 UNDP Human Development Report, “since 1990 Bangladesh has recorded some of the developing world’s most rapid advances in basic human development indicators… Primary school enrollment rates have reached more than 90%, up from 72% in 1990, with close to gender parity, and enrollment in secondary education has been rising.”
The Government of Bangladesh has been highly receptive and strongly supportive of the AUW vision since its inception. It has granted 100+ acres of land, while also signing a far-reaching and empowering charter, ensuring academic freedom and institutional autonomy.
AUW is deeply committed to serving populations of women who have been underserved by higher education in the past, and our relationship with Bangladesh serves to underscore this commitment.