Mantle of Authority Back on Universities

Mantle of Authority  Back on Universities Mantle of Authority  Back on Universities

The Ministry of Science, Research and Technology has entrusted to the state-run universities the task of sending highly-qualified students to study abroad on scholarships, a turnaround from the previous government’s policy. All non-medical state universities run under the direct supervision of the ministry.

Mojtaba Sediqi, head of the Students Affairs Organization (SAO), affiliated to the ministry, made the announcement and said, “The policy on sending scholars abroad has changed in a significant way. Now, the power and authority to take decisions has been returned to the universities,” the Persian language newspaper ‘Iran’ quoted him as saying

Under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency (2005-2013), the functioning of universities was curtailed in many ways. In 2006, the former president called for “a purge of the liberal and secular” university teachers from higher academic portals, forcing many prominent teachers and professors to resign early or retire. The measure led to a massive brain drain at the time.

Many scholars and academicians were literally forced to step down or to retire based on the previous government’s policy “to replace old professors with younger ones.”

Some university professors received official notification on their early retirement. In November 2006, 53 university professors had to retire from the prestigious Iran University of Science and Technology. The government also imposed a 50% quota for male students and 50% for female students for the university entrance exams for medicine, dentistry and pharmacy “to curb the growing presence of female students in the centers of higher learning.”

In a response to critics, the then minister of health, Kamran Bagheri Lankarani claimed that there are not enough facilities such as dormitories for female students.  The argument was rejected by many observers, social scientists and supporters of women’s rights.

 Varsities Notified

The reversal in scholarship policy has been notified to all universities and they have been given a deadline to provide information about their top talents and their desired fields of study by the end of January, Sediqi said.

According to education experts, the new measure will help stop the unjust and controversial granting of scholarships and grants to students who are not qualified or deserving.

Gholamreza Zarifian, a professor at the University of Tehran said, “At one time universities were responsible for granting scholarships among the most talented students, but during the previous government’s tenure, the responsibility was assigned to the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology.”

As a result, the universities were stripped of their independence and authority to take decisions, he said, adding that the ministry dictated terms to them “on who should and should not be selected.” Top university professors were dissatisfied with the turn of events and many resigned as the so-called “scholarship controversy” spread and for months became a regular feature of the media and news outlets opposed to the Ahmadinejad government.

Dr. Ahmad Motamedi, head of Amir-Kabir University told ‘Iran’ that the news was a big consolation to university heads and teaching staff, as now they can choose students based on merit and scientific scholarship,  as against the earlier policy of “relationships and connections to the right places rather than the  rules and rights.”

The Rouhani government is willing to entrust such authority to the universities as it rightfully belongs to them, said Mojtaba Shariati Niyasar, deputy minister of science, research and technology. The authority for admission of students to doctoral programs and scheduling of semesters has also been delegated to the universities.