When the Kosovo war finally ended in 1999 after the NATO intervention, prominent Kosovars sought a way to honor and memorialize the great role the United States played in the conflict. After immense discussion, a major donation on behalf of the Union Fund for the Reconstruction of Kosova (UFORK) funded the start-up of the American University Foundation in 2002. The UFORK fund was the post-war balance of the money raised by the Kosovo diaspora during the 1990s to support the underground “parallel institutions” in Kosovo of the Kosovo government-in-exile, headed by Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi. This money represented small donations from tens of thousands of people. Even today, A.U.K is mindful that it was founded by the hard-earned contributions of the people of Kosovo.
A.U.K opened its doors in temporary facilities in 2003, in a house on the Sunny Hill (Bregu i Diellit) in Prishtina. The question of a permanent home for the university was settled in 2004 by the generous contribution of the Municipality of Prishtina of a lease on part of the former Shkolla Normale campus at Germia. A further, very generous contribution by Mr. Behgjet Paccolli, President of the Mabetex construction group, financed the conversion and rebuilding of what are now A.U.K’s two main buildings, allowing us to move our campus to Germia in 2005.
The first undergraduate class of 57 students entered in 2003 and graduated in 2007. In the 2008-2009 academic year, the undergraduate enrollment stood at 464, with an additional 55 students in Master’s degree programs. With the freshmen class entering in September 2009, our number of undergraduate students passed 500 for the first time. These students came from 20 countries, and from every major ethnic community in Kosovo.
A.U.K was singled out in 2008 by the British Accreditation Council as “a model of good practice for the delivery of undergraduate and taught postgraduate programs.” Another indication of the quality of our education can be seen in the success of our students. In the summer of 2009, 20 A.U.K graduates – one fifth of our graduating class – were awarded scholarships for postgraduate study in US and EU universities.
The first five years of A.U.K’s foundation were also highlighted by:
- The contribution of the IPKO Institute’s information technology programs in 2004, to start the A.U.K Training and Development Institute (TDI)
- The commencement of the first RIT Master’s degree course in 2005
- The startup of the Center for Energy and Natural Resources, funded by USAID in 2006
- The opening of Walker’s Cafeteria in 2006
- Opening of the A.U.K Library – now the Irv Metzger Memorial Library – in 2007
- The first Fulbright Scholarship exchanges of faculty with US universities in 2007-08
- A record intake of 152 Freshman students in September 2008
- Funding for expansion of the Library and a new Multimedia Center, by the US Embassy – Prishtina in 2009
- Start of the first Master’s program in Public Administration, for Kosovo Government Civil Servants, in 2009