Is Iran Ready For Return of the Academic Elite?

Is Iran Ready For Return of the Academic Elite? Is Iran Ready For Return of the Academic Elite?

The vice-president of the National Elite Foundation said the number of academic elite leaving the country “has not reached a crisis point” and it would not be realistic to expect all the elite to stay in Iran.

Dr. Said Sohrabpour told ISNA the number one destination for Iranian intellectuals and academic elite is the United States and Canada. He said Germany, Britain, Switzerland and Scandinavian countries come next in attracting highly educated Iranians.

“Based on figures from 2012, 30% of the foundation members left the country but we are yet to release the latest statistics,” Sohrabpour said. “Most of the intellectual students go abroad to study after under-graduation in Iran.” While maintaining that it’s not feasible to see all the elite stay back in the country, however, he said it would be justified to expect them to return to their homeland to “pay their indebtedness to their homeland.”


Sohrabpour said there’s a vast pool of talented youth in the country at the moment, who finds little opportunity for employment and research activities.

For instance, he said 2,500 students graduate from the highly prestigious Sharif University of Technology but there are not enough centers and facilities to hire them. He said if the 30,000 PhD graduates from top universities like MIT return to the country, it is possible to hire only 2,000 or 3,000 among them, and asked “what we do with the rest of them?”

“We are struggling with elite unemployment in the country; a dignified employment deserving of them,” he said. “If the economy booms, if our development projects make advancements, then we will have what it takes to hire and make use of our expatriate intellectuals.”

 Reasons to Leave    

Sohrabpour said the top reasons for the elite leaving the country are employment and job security but said “environment and other factors are also effective in luring some of the elite to migrate.” He said the facilities and attractive offers by foreign universities make it difficult for many intellectuals to pass up the offer.”

“When a newly hired assistant professor is paid only $800 a month or a full professor of Sharif University around $2400 a month, this makes some of the elite think twice before coming back to Iran,” he further said. Nevertheless, he said, patience is required and those who return can increase their income by taking up research projects.

 Hiring Process

Sohrabpour, a former chancellor of Sharif University of Technology said the sole reason for the elite to return “is love of their country and family.” Those who value their country and family above all, make the decision to “give up all that is interesting” and to come back and live in Iran,” he said. But there has been a decline “in this group of individuals and the reasons must be investigated.”

He also said “some of our elite living abroad face pressure. For instance, an intellectual might be regarded highly and treated well in the workplace, but in non-scientific places he could be viewed differently as a foreigner.”

“Not everyone might agree with me, but problems exist for Iranians living abroad,” he maintained.

Responding to complaints about the “hiring process” of faculty members in the country he said it’s a valid complaint that applicants “have to stay in a long line before any response is given to them.” He said an agreement has been signed with the ministry of science so that enquiries from the elite to be granted tenure by universities will be answered within three months.