Education in Iran

Iran’s population reached 70 million in 2006. More than two-thirds of the Iranians are under the age of 30, and the literacy rate stands above 82%.

Education in Iran is centralized and divided into K-12 education plus higher education. Elementary and secondary education is supervised by the Ministry of Education and higher education is under supervision of Ministry of Science, research and Technology and Ministry of Health and Medical Education (medical fields). As of September 2015, 93% of the Iranian adult population are literate.

Universities, institutes of technology, medical schools and community colleges, provide the higher education. Higher education is sanctioned by different levels of diplomas: Fogh-e-Diplom or Kārdāni after 2 years of higher education, Kārshenāsi (also known under the name “licence”) is delivered after 4 years of higher education (Bachelor’s degree). Kārshenāsi-ye Arshad is delivered after 2 more years of study (Master’s degree). After which, another exam allows the candidate to pursue a doctoral program (PhD).

Grades

Age Level of education (in Persian) Duration US degree equivalent
6 Pre-primary/Kindergarten 1 year (K-12)
7-12 Elementary education/Dabestan 6 years (K-12)
13-15 Lower-secondary/ Motovasseteh avval 3 years (K-12) Middle school
16-18 ( or older) Upper-secondary/ Motovasseteh dovom 3 years (K-12) High school diploma (Diplom-Motevaseth)
18-20 (or older) Technical/Vocational School OR (see below) 2 years Associate Degree (Fogh-e-Diplom or Kārdāni)
18-22 (or older) University (undergraduate) 4 years Bachelor degree (Kārshenāsi or Licence)
22-24 (or older) University (graduate) 2 years Master degree (Kārshenāsi-ye Arshad or Fogh Licence)
24-27/8 (or older) Doctoral program 3-4 years PhD. (Doctora)
Grading scale
Numeric Alfa Remarks
16-20 A
14-15.99 B
12-13.99 C
10-11.99 D Pass: GPA above 10
0-9.99 F or ‘Fail’ 7 may be considered a passing grade in some individual subjects, while a grade above 10 is required for Persian language.

Higher education

As of 2013, 4.5 million students are enrolled in universities, out of a total population of 75 million. Iranian universities graduate almost 750,000 annually.

The tradition of university education in Iran goes back to the early centuries of Islam. By the 20th century, however, the system had become antiquated and was remodeled along French lines. The country’s 16 universities were closed after the 1979 revolution and were then reopened gradually between 1982 and 1983 under Islamic supervision.

While the universities were closed, the Cultural Revolution Committee investigated professors and teachers and dismissed those who were believers in Marxism, liberalism, and other “imperialistic” ideologies. The universities reopened with Islamic curricula. In 1997, all higher-level institutions had 40,477 teachers and enrolled 579,070 students.

Admission to public universities, some are tuition-free, is based solely on performance on the nationwide Konkour exam. Some alternative to the public universities is the Islamic Azad University which charges high fees.

The syllabus of all the universities in Iran is decided by a national council as a result the difference of the quality of education among the universities is only based on the location and the quality of the students and the faculty members. Among all top universities in the country there are three universities each notable for some reasons:

The University of Tehran (founded in 1934) has 10 faculties, including a department of Islamic theology. It is the oldest (in the modern system) and biggest university in Iran. It has been the birthplace of several social and political movements.

Tarbiat Modares University (means: professor training university) also located in Tehran is the only exclusively post-graduate institute in Iran. It only offers Master’s, PhD, and Postdoc programs. It is also the most comprehensive Iranian university in the sense that it is the only university under the Iranian Ministry of Science System that has a Medical School. All other Medical Schools in Iran are a separate university and governed under the Ministry of Health; for example Tehran University of Medical Sciences (commonly known as Medical School of Tehran University) is in fact separate from Tehran University.

Sharif University of Technology, Amirkabir University of Technology, and Iran University of Science and Technology also located in Tehran are nationally well known for taking in the top undergraduate Engineering and Science students; and internationally recognized for training competent under graduate students. It has probably the highest percentage of graduates who seek higher education abroad.

K.N.Toosi University of Technology is among most prestigious universities in Tehran. Other major universities are at Shiraz, Tabriz, Isfahan, Mashhad, Ahvaz, Kerman, Kermanshah, Babolsar, Rasht, and Orumiyeh. There are about 50 colleges and 40 technological institutes.

In 2009, 33.7% of all those in the 18–25 age group were enrolled in one of the 92 universities, 512 Payame Noor University branches, and 56 research and technology institutes around the country. There are currently some 3.7 million university students in Iran and 1.5 million study at the 500 branches of Islamic Azad University. Iran had 1 million medical students in 2011.

Higher education in Iran

Iran has a large network of private, public, and state affiliated universities offering degrees in higher education. State-run universities of Iran are under the direct supervision of Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology (for non-medical universities) and Ministry of Health and Medical Education (for medical schools). According to article 3 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iran guarantees “free education and physical training for everyone at all levels, and the facilitation and expansion of higher education.”

Academic system of Iranian universities

Tehran University of Medical Sciences’ Tehran Heart Center

In 2008, Iran had over 3.5 million students enrolled in universities. Some 1.7 million in various programs in Islamic Azad university and the remainder in State universities. In addition, the new enrollment numbers for the academic year 2004 were 290 thousand in Azad universities, and 250 thousand in state universities. Iran has 54 state operated universities, and 42 state medical schools. These are primarily the top choice for students in national entrance exams, and have the largest and most prestigious programs. There are 289 major private universities operating as well. In addition, there are over 40,000 students engaged in master’s programs and 20,000 students in PhD programs. In all these schools, except for private universities such as the Islamic Azad University system, tuition and room and board is mostly paid for by the government. The universities themselves largely operate on state budgets. There are also institutes like Payame Noor University that offer degrees remotely or online.

Some schools offer degrees in conjunction with European universities. The International University of Chabahar for example offers programs under the guidance of London School of Economics and Political Science Goldsmiths University of London, and Royal Holloway. Other schools such as the Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences in Zanjan, have close collaboration with The International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy for workshops, seminars, and summer schools. The Iranian government also offers intensely competitive but fully paid scholarships for successful applicants to pursue PhD-level studies in several foreign countries, mostly Great Britain.

By early 2000, Iran allocated around 0.4% of its GDP to R&D, which ranks it “far behind industrialized societies” and the world average of 1.4%. By 2009 this ratio of research to GDP reached 0.87% and the set target is 2.5%.

Rankings

U.S. News & World Report published a global ranking for universities and institutes of higher education in 2018. The best global universities in Iran were ranked as follows:

Ranking of Iranian universities

Rank University City
1 University of Tehran Tehran
2 Islamic Azad University Tehran
3 Sharif University of Technology Tehran
4 Isfahan University of Technology Isfahan
5 Amirkabir University of Technology Tehran
6 Tehran University of Medical Sciences Tehran
7 Tarbiat Modares University Tehran
8 Iran University of Science and Technology Tehran
9 Ferdowsi University of Mashhad Mashhad
10 University of Tabriz Tabriz
11 Babol Noshirvani University of Technology Babol
12 Mashhad University of Medical Sciences Mashhad
13 Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences Tehran
14 Technical and Vocational University Tehran
15 Iran University of Medical Sciences Tehran

Ranking by number of publications (ISI)

As per the data published on QS World University Rankings official website, Sharif University of Technology, ranked 432, Amirkabir University of Technology, ranked 498, Iran University of Science and Technology, ranked between 601 to 651, University of Tehran, ranked between 701 to 750, Shahid Beheshti University, ranked between 800 to 1000, and Shiraz University, ranked between 800 to 1000, are the top 6 Iranian universities among world-class universities.

The Times Higher Education Young University Rankings website has listed the world’s best universities that are aged 50 years or under in 2018. Three Iranian universities are included in the recent Times Higher Education Young University Rankings. Babol Noshirvani University of Technology, ranked 55, Isfahan University of Technology, ranked between 101 and 150, and University of Gilan ranked between 201 and 250, are among the young top universities worldwide.

Medical schools

ISC’s most recent list of the highest-ranked universities in the medical field for 2012 is:

  1. Tehran University of Medical Sciences
  2. Shiraz University of Medical Sciences
  3. Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences (Former National University)
  4. Isfahan University of Medical Sciences
  5. Tabriz University of Medical Sciences
  6. Mashad University of Medical Sciences
  7. Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences

Dental schools

According to the 2007 rankings the top five rated schools in the dental field in Iran are:

  1. Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences
  2. Tehran University of Medical Sciences and Mashad University of Medical Sciences
  3. Isfahan University of Medical Sciences
  4. Kerman University of Medical Sciences and Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences and Health Services and Hamedan University of Medical Sciences
  5. Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences and Shiraz University of Medical Sciences and Babol University of Medical Sciences

Pharmacy schools

According to the 2010 rankings the top three rated schools in the pharmaceutical field in Iran are:

  1. Tehran University of Medical Sciences
  2. Isfahan University of Medical Sciences
  3. Tabriz University of Medical Sciences

Engineering schools

According to the 2019 U.S.News university ranking  the top-ranked engineering schools in the engineering field and their rank among world universities are:

  1. Islamic Azad University 31
  2. University of Tehran 39
  3. Sharif University of Technology 92
  4. Amirkabir University of Technology 106
  5. Iran University of Science and Technology 145
  6. University of Tabriz 192
  7. Isfahan University of Technology 202
  8. Tarbiat Modares University 207
  9. Ferdowsi University of Mashhad 228
  10. Babol Noshirvani University of Technology 231
  11. Technical and Vocational University 250_300