Iranian Universities Earn Poor Global Rankings As Ideology Dominates Academia
Conservative Mehr news agency in Tehran says 31 Iranian universities and academic institutions are included in US News and World report’s 2021 Best Global Universities Rankings.
The report by Mehr wrongly suggests that the 31 Iranian academic centers are among the best in the world. However, none of these institutions have a prestigious ranking even among universities in Asia. They simply appear among a ranking of 1,500 universities that have been assessed in the study.
Like everything else, education in Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution became ideologic and the regime has tried to use the academic system to propagate its Shiite ideology and promote its loyal cadres.
The Islamic Republic's first confrontation with universities occurred shortly after the 1979 revolution when Ayatollah Khomeini, branded the academia as heretic and shut down the universities launching what was then called a "cultural revolution" that was nothing more than Islamization of the universities. Clerics were put in charge, and a fierce purge of faculties started.
Many academics left Iran or were arrested, jailed, tortured, and killed. At the same time, the humanities were frowned upon as tools of a cultural onslaught by the West. Even economics, according to a famous statement by Khomeini, was "knowledge good for donkeys," let alone pollical science, sociology, and philosophy.
University female Basij members in a state-sponsored protest rally in Tehran.
As a result, some of the universities regarded as the best academic centers are deep down at the bottom of international rankings. For instance, the University of Tehran ranks 387 and the Islamic Azad University 445 while the Tehran University of Medical Sciences ranks 623 in the Best Global Universities list. The once prestigious Sharif University of Technology ranks 649. Even among universities in Asia the highest-ranking Iranian institution, Tehran University ranks 58.
Amir Kabir University of technology (AUT) another higher education institute that enjoyed high prestige and reputation is at number 670 and the Mashad University of Medical Sciences is at 792. Sadly, the University of Shiraz is at number 874. This is a university that during the monarchy was academically interconnected with the Universities of Kent and Pennsylvania in the United States.
The three universities constantly exchanged students and professors and it was generally believed that particularly the schools of medicine, engineering and agriculture at Shiraz University, that was then called the Pahlavi University, were on a par with the best universities in the United States.
All textbooks were in English and most lecturers were American or US-trained Iranian academics. There were usually a few hundred American students studying at the Pahlavi University for one or two semesters at any given time.
In universities in Tehran, Tabriz, Mashad and Ahvaz, special attention was paid to medical schools. All this ended with the Islamic Republic as operatives and clerics linked to the new regime alienated and often physically got rid of any academic or student with a leftist or secular political affiliation.
Many were killed during the 1988 massacre in prisons even if they managed to get through the net in 1979.
Meanwhile, Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia and its arch foe Israel have much higher university rankings both in Asia and in the world. King Abdul Aziz University ranks fourth in Asia and 42nd in the world. Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel ranks 9th in Asia and 105th in the world.
Islamic ideology was added to the curriculum of all universities where students must memorize hundreds of pages of pseudo-science. At the same time, students, particularly female students, were and still are under constant pressure by the chastity police embedded with the "selection committees" within every faculty. This and the Basij militia organization constantly screen students to make sure that everyone at least pretends to be strictly supporting the hardliners in the regime.
Meanwhile, well-connected individuals are admitted to the universities as students or lecturers without the right qualifications. In the 1980s, everyone with links to an organization such as the IRGC could get himself a degree in geography or history without even sitting for an entrance exam or attending classes. Lately, such people have even managed to enter schools of medicine. During the 1980s and 1990s many entered the faculty of law without a high school diploma. They are now operating as "judges" at the Islamic law courts.
With such deteriorating standards, and with people with no qualification, or those with fabricated academic credentials teaching at universities, it is no wonder Iranian universities have no place on the list of top institutions. A top official in the Ahmadinejad administration was known to teach international law at a university in Tehran. He had a forged Ph.D. in Law from Oxford University of London. Ironically, his forged diploma contained more than a dozen typos.