More Graduates But No Jobs

An increase in the number of private universities and centers for higher learning has made higher education more accessible in Iran
Higher education has become commercialized with many universities and academic centers enrolling students who have not passed the Konkur.
Higher education has become commercialized with many universities and academic centers enrolling students who have not passed the Konkur.

In June this year, half a million students graduated from pre-university (12th grade) courses and 767,000 (including graduates from previous years) took the University Entrance Exam (Konkur), said Ebrahim Khodaei, statistical and technical deputy of the  National Organization for Educational Testing.

Given the fact that state-run and private universities had the capacity to accommodate such a huge number of students at the pre-university level, it can be said that “a high percentage of 18-year-olds in Iran will enter the university portals and most of them will likely graduate with a degree,” the news website reported

The total number of private and state-run universities in Iran “is about five times the number in a developed country, but it is unfortunate that there is no economic demand for such a large number of university graduates,” the report further said. In other words, the job market doesn’t correspond with the number of graduates passing out of universities annually.

Increase in the number of private universities and centers of higher learning has made higher education much more accessible to students in Iran.

Currently, there are 2,640 state-run and private universities and academic centers in Iran, while the figure is 2,481 and 1,620 universities in Asia’s two most populated countries, China and India, respectively. The two countries together constitute about 37% of the world’s population.

According to the latest figures released by the Spanish National Research Council (CISC), the number of universities is less than 500 in most developed countries around the world. Based on the report, there are 412, 291, 329, 236, and 423 universities in Germany, UK, Canada, Italy and the Netherlands, respectively.

Some other countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland have less than 100 top level universities.

It should be noted that President Hassan Rouhani has often said that the quality and the quantity of education should be compatible.

 “I will be very happy to hear that we have 40,000 PhD students in Iran. However, let’s look at the famous universities in the world and see how many PhD students each of them have,” he said in 2014, a few months after taking office.

  Waste of Time, Effort, Money

Annually $1.4 billion is allocated for Iranian universities and academic centers in the national budget. However, they produce a high percentage of the country’s unemployed population. Private universities are not run by the state or government, although many receive tax breaks, student loans, and grants.

“The money invested on the universities brings almost no job guarantees for many students after graduation which may demoralize them,” Farshid Yazdani, social policy researcher told Khabaronline.

Lack of proper needs assessments is the main reason students cannot find a job or the right career after graduation, he said.

The high number of universities has also affected teaching quality. “It’s not higher education anymore. It’s just an extension of high school that leaves graduates ill-prepared for the job market.”

In recent years, the unemployment rate for new graduates in Iran has topped 50%.

“It is psychologically difficult for someone with PhD or master’s degree to do general jobs. While we don’t have jobs for the large number of PhD and masters graduates, we continue to provide easy admission to students in universities,” Yazdani said.  

Experts say higher education has become commercialized in Iran with many universities taking students who have not passed the Konkur, if they are willing to “pay the proper price.”

An example is the Islamic Azad (Free) University approved and ratified by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution in 1982. It has 400 branches across the country, including in rural areas. It is the third-largest university by enrollment (through entrance exam) in the world but charges tuition fees.

Over the years, the IAU has accumulated assets estimated to be worth between $20–25 billion after its activities quickly expanded. Currently, it has 1.7 million students.

It is said that the majority of jobs today in the world do not require degree-level qualifications.

According to The Spectator, in the US in 2010, around 20% of jobs required a bachelor’s degree, 43% required a high-school education, and 26% did not even require that.  Meanwhile, 40% of young people study for degrees. This means over half the people receiving degrees today will find themselves working in jobs that don’t require one.

“We still don’t know what percentage of jobs in Iran requires university degree. Data released by other countries indicates the figure shouldn’t be high,” Yazdani said.