Dar ul-Funun; A Journey Through Iranian Education

Dar ul-Funun; A Journey Through Iranian EducationDar ul-Funun; A Journey Through Iranian Education

A trilateral MOU has been signed to renovate and restore Dar ul-Funun, the first modern university in Iran, to attract tourists to the historic site within the next two years, said the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), Masoud Soltanifar.

ICHHTO, Tehran Municipality, and the education ministry signed the MOU. Turning the historic site into a tourist attraction is a top priority.

Asked about previous agreements between ICHHTO and education ministry to renovate Dar ul-Funun, Soltanifar said the first phase of the renovation project has already been approved and is underway.

As part of the previous agreement the Permanent Exhibition of Iran Education History was officially inaugurated on August 30. It comprises five sections, among which are education ministers, education martyrs, education Hall of Fame and educational materials

  Dar ul Funun

Dar ul-Funun (a polytechnic), established in 1851, was the first modern university and modern institution of higher learning which marked the beginning of modern education in Iran.

Within two years of Amir Kabir’s appointment as grand vizier in October 1848 the first steps were taken to establish the educational institution that subsequently became known as Dar al-funun. In his initial letter of instruction to Jan Dawud, first secretary at the Persian legation in St. Petersburg, in August 1850, Amir Kabir stressed the military and technical nature of the subjects to be taught at the new academy, which in subsequent letters and in the official newspaper “Waqaye’-e ettefaqiya” he referred to variously as Ta’lim-kana, Madrasa-ye jadid, Madrasa-ye nezamiya.

It was originally conceived as a polytechnic to train upper-class Persian youth in medicine, engineering, military science, and geology. It was similar in scope and purpose to American land grant colleges like Purdue and Texas A&M. Like them, it developed and expanded over the next hundred years, eventually becoming the University of Tehran.

The teaching establishments’ first instructors were seven professors from Austria. Dar ul-Funun was turned into an official state run university. The dean was the foreign minister of the time, Mirza Mohammad Ali Khan.

The institute was designed by the Iranian educated Mirza Reza Mohandes, and built by the architect Muhammad Taqi Khan Memar Bashi. Facilities included an assembly hall, a theater, library, cafeteria, and a publishing house.

The elite school was training 287 students by 1889, and had educated 1100 students by 1891. During this time, the faculty consisted of 16 European, and 26 Iranian professors.

Many parts of the institute were later incorporated and merged into the newly established Tehran University. The Faculty of Medicine for example, was particularly the successor to the Dar ul-Funun Department of Medicine, established in 1851, which had become the School of Medicine in 1919.

Many of the departments were incorporated into the University of Tehran from the Dar al-Funun established in 1851 and the Tehran School of Political Sciences established in 1899.

  Tehran University

At just over 80 years old, the University of Tehran, also known as Tehran University and UT, is Iran’s oldest and most prestigious university. Based on its historical, socio-cultural and political pedigree, as well as its research and teaching profile, UT has been nicknamed “The mother University of Iran”. It is one of the most prestigious universities. It is also the premier center of higher learning among the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) countries.


Rooted in Jondi Shapur University which goes back over 2,000 years, the University of Tehran in its traditional form was founded in religious seminaries (“Houza” or traditional religious schools). Other than religious studies, the education then covered mathematics, astronomy, medicine, literature, biology, physics and chemistry. During the modern era, the University of Tehran evolved from a religious structure to a more modern and academic structure of higher education. Dar ul-Funun College was the first engineering school in its modern form which was established almost a century ago.

This was 20 years before the establishment of similar colleges in Tokyo (Japan). Amir Kabir, having witnessed the modern sciences during his journey to Russia and the Ottoman Empire, established Dar ul-Funun.

The initial plan of turning the college into a national university started during 1940s. The plan would establish faculties of theology (Ma’ghool-o-Manghool), natural, economics and engineering sciences. The minister of science at the time, also in charge of implementation of the plan was Ali Asghar Hekmat, whose collections of books are kept at the university’s main library. Other teacher training colleges and Industrial schools became subdivisions of the university to which ad hoc schools and institutions would be added. It was not until 1933 that the plan was passed by the national parliament. Due to the absence of large buildings, the mansion of the Teachers Training College for example was adopted for the Faculty of Humanities and Literature.

The University of Tehran was inaugurated in the winter of 1934. Hekmat, the minister of science, became the first dean. The board of governors consisted of several prominent faculty members including Loghman-o-doleh and Dr. Amir A’lam from medicine; Dehkhoda and Sedig Hazrat (Mohammad Mazaher) from law; Sedigh A’lam and Mirza Gholam-Hossein Khan Rahnama and Dr. Siasi from literature and humanities; Haj. Seyed Nasrollah Naghavi and Badi-o-zaman from Ma’ghool –o- Manghool; and Dr Hesabi and Amin from the faculty of engineering. Also, Dr. Vali-o-llah Khan Nasr joined the science ministry due to his contributions to the university.

  UT International Relations

The office of international relations provides information and assistance to international students, faculty members and researchers. It also establishes links between UT and other Iranian universities on the one hand and foreign universities, research institutes and centers on the other. The office of International Relations offers advice and services to all international students and scholars. It provides opportunities for academic members and students to participate in international conferences, seminars and workshops. It also enjoys close relationships with many international associations and cooperates in offering its services for joint conferences, membership in international associations and sabbatical leave.

  Main Entrance

The University of Tehran main entrance, in Enqelab Street, as designed in 1965 by Korosh Farzami, one of the students of the faculty of fine arts of the university. The structural engineer was an Armenian-Iranian by the name of Simon Sarkissian. Due to the importance of the university, these gates have gradually become the symbol of Iran’s higher education system. The gates are depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 500 rial banknote.