NEW YORK, June 18, 2015—The Institute of International Education (IIE) led a delegation of senior U.S. higher education representatives to Iran last week, meeting with counterparts from thirteen Iranian universities and research institutes to pave the way for increasing academic cooperation between the two countries. Today, IIE announced a new IIE Iran Higher Education Initiative to reopen and expand educational and scientific dialogue between Iran and the United States.
Led by IIE’s President and CEO Allan E. Goodman, the delegation included Ball State University, Pitzer College, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the University of Southern California (USC), and Wayne State University, as well as senior representatives of IIE. The delegation opens a historic new chapter in educational relations, preparing for significantly expanded educational and scientific cooperation, as well as more student exchanges in both directions.
While a few individual U.S. universities have visited Iran, this is the first university delegation in many years. “Educational diplomacy is at the forefront of opening up dialogue between two countries, often before full diplomatic relations have been restored,” said Dr. Goodman. “This was the case with China and Vietnam, and IIE has been leading these efforts in recent years, first with Myanmar and Cuba and now with Iran.”
The new IIE Iran Higher Education Initiative will take a multi-pronged approach aimed at expanding educational cooperation with Iran. In addition to last week’s delegation, the initiative will include a series of activities over the course of the next year, including bi-national conference calls, a white paper on opportunities for developing university partnerships and understanding the regulations that control the establishment of these relationships, workshops for university administrators, and activities aimed at increasing exchanges of students and faculty members. The goal is to share resources and knowledge that will bring higher education institutions in the U.S. and Iran closer together, ultimately to enrich the academic experiences of students, faculty, staff, and administrators from both countries.
In Tehran, Shiraz, and Isfahan, the delegation visited many of Iran’s top universities and research institutes, including: University of Tehran, Shahid Beheshti University, Tabataba’i University, Alzahra University, Sharif University of Technology, University of Shiraz, University of Isfahan, Isfahan University of Technology, the National Research Institute for Genetic Engineering and Biotech (NIGEB), the National Research Institute for Science and Technology (IROST), Royan Stem Cell Institute, the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences (IPM) and Zand University. In addition, the delegates held high-level meetings with representatives from the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, one of three ministries that oversee higher education in Iran, and the coordinating ministry for the delegation.
Delegation members from both countries agreed that there is a growing need for scientific cooperation on major global challenges that affect both the United States and Iran, such as water management, natural disasters such as earthquakes, climate change, food safety, energy, and urban development. The delegation revealed that there is significant potential for academic engagement. Specific examples include: double degree programs at the Master’s and PhD levels, short term study abroad programs for U.S. students, faculty exchanges, joint academic workshops and symposia, and 6-9 month study visits in the U.S. for Iranian PhD students.
According to IIE’s 2014 Open Doors Report, in 2013/14 there were nearly 10,200 Iranian students and close to 1,400 scholars at U.S. colleges and universities. Iran is the twelfth leading country to send international students to the United States. Meanwhile, no U.S. higher education institutions report that their U.S. students were studying abroad in Iran. In 1979, Iran was the leading sender of international students to the United States, with more than 51,000 students enrolled in U.S. universities.
“There is enormous good will toward the United States, especially in the education space,” said Dr. Goodman. “A large majority of the Iranian academics and university administrators we met were educated in the United States and many of their children are currently pursuing degrees at U.S. colleges and universities. This provides a foundation on which new educational cooperation can be based.”
The IIE delegation demonstrated for both sides that there is room for strong research and academic cooperation. But what is lacking are the institutional frameworks that match research and exchange priorities on both sides, so we anticipate there will be major efforts—post June agreement—to negotiate new MOUs and revive old ones with universities and colleges that have programs and industry in Iran. The IIE white paper, to be published in July, will provide specific recommendations for collaboration.
About the Institute of International Education
The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,400 member institutions.