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Education and training to Iran

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Trends and opportunities

The market

Mounting economic pressures in Iran combined with the premium that status-conscious Iranians place on tertiary education have turned the annual domestic university admissions process into a ‘nightmare’ for many Iranian families.

Around two million students compete each year for 482,000 places at 326 Iranian national (public) universities. These universities are state run and funded with no student fees levied.

A semi-government system (non-public) of universities, called Islamic Azad University (based on the concept of Open Universities) was founded in the late 1982 to help absorb the increasing number of high school graduates who could not get into the national university system. Azad University is tuition fees-based, and accepts more than 283,000 students annually in over 190 campuses. Admission is relatively easy compared to national universities, because not everyone can afford the tuition fees. There are 39 other non-public fees-based higher education institutions in the country, enrolling approximately 35,000 students every year.

Universities that were closed after the Islamic revolution in 1979 (under the banner of ‘cultural revolution’) reopened in 1983 with modified syllabuses and a controlled intake have been slow to embrace new educational ideas. Many departments, particularly sciences, have stagnated. Some intellectual flexibility returned during the 1990s, but financial problems have proved as great an impediment to raising standards as institutional or intellectual capacity.

One unforeseen result of the revolutionary government's drive for gender segregation has been the improvement in women's education. As men are not allowed to work in certain occupations or environments requiring direct contact with women (such as teaching or training girls), the demand for female professionals has risen markedly, boosting the number of female graduates.

In that respect, it is worth noting that the government has recently approved a bill to allow single female students, who have a first or higher degree, to go abroad. Before, single females were not allowed to go abroad through government sponsored channels, or they were not allowed to go abroad without their father’s consent, which was an issue in some religiously strict families.


Australian educational institutions are well placed to capitalise on a broad range of opportunities in Iran. Demand for entry into local Iranian universities outstrips the number of places available, a trend that is set to continue.

The government aims to provide more higher education opportunities for Iranians and upgrade the countries skill base, which is seriously required if Iran is to meet its ambitious development plans, especially in industries such as oil and gas, health and medical, agriculture, ICT, automotive, mining and tourism.

Major education services export opportunities for Australia can be classified as follows:

  • Provision of postgraduate studies (essentially government-sponsored), particularly in science, health and medicine, technology, communications, management and engineering - to meet the industrial development needs of Iran.
  • Twinning programs and franchising of degrees mainly at postgraduate level.
  • Joint research, project management and consultancy services including the establishment of education and training institutions.
  • Development of curriculum and facilities for technical and vocational education to make training more responsive to industry needs.
  • ‘Train the trainer’ programs to increase the number and quality of trainers and instructors.
  • English language training programs (real issues of quality in respect of course material, competency of teaching staff, and the lack of native English speakers).
  • Short term and on the job training mainly in the medical and industrial fields.

While Iranians still continue to pursue overseas education options, there is also an increasing demand for education and training within Iran, due to financial limitations and in some cases visa difficulties. Australian education providers are well placed to deliver education programs and curriculum locally. Recent developments have provided valuable opportunities for Australian institutions to establish themselves in Iran: Petroleum University of Technology (PUT) and Curtin University of Technology, Kish University and Monash University, and Curtin University of Technology and training departments of some ministries.

E-learning has started to generate interest and awareness among education professionals throughout Iran, but its operation is little understood and communications infrastructure shortcomings are also a compromising factor. However within centres of excellence across the country, there are opportunities such as management education in all areas of professional development including IT, business, and tourism.

Payam-e-Noor University (established 1987) as a provider exclusively of distance education courses is a state university under the supervision of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology (MSRT).
Recently the MSRT provided licenses to the higher education providers to perform distance education and ‘virtual education’ in collaboration with foreign universities. However, there is still no clear policy from which the MSRT can determine the merit of degrees and diplomas awarded. 

Competitive environment

Australia is considered to be a cheaper alternative, when compared to the UK, USA and Canada. There are currently 1,421 Iranian students studying in Australia, with 962 students in higher education, mostly as Master and PhD students. Of these 220 are full Iranian scholarship holders and it is anticipated that the number of scholarships offered for study in Australia will increase. Iranians appear to be keen to participate in direct exchanges between Australian and Iranian universities.

However, as many American and Canadian universities have provide full scholarship and financial aid packages for Iranian students, these universities are better known to the general public. There is, as yet, limited public awareness of Australian universities or Australian education opportunities in general.

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Tariffs, regulations and customs

The Ministry of Education regulates primary and secondary education. The Ministry of Science, Research and Technology (MSRT) and the Ministry of Health and Medical Education (MHME) regulate tertiary and higher education in Iran. All three Ministries are responsible for the management of the comprehensive educational system at their respective levels. They regulate syllabuses, teaching methodologies, control national examinations and enforce many standards for school and university management systems.

As a result, the educational system is very controlled and it is difficult to set up schools or colleges with different educational content, methodology and management systems. Over the past decade the government has encouraged the opening of private primary and secondary schools, in response to the increasing student population.

There are some private vocational training centres, mostly offering English language and computer, IT and business management classes. However, these require permission and accreditation by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, for their certificates to be recognised by government organisations.

In general, the establishment of private educational institutions requires government approval and accreditation, usually followed by random inspections by government auditors. Different kinds of educational programs require different permissions as follows:

  • Primary schools and high schools require the permission of the Ministry of Education.
  • High schools with vocational education programs and private vocational training institutions require the approval of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in addition to the Ministry of Education.
  • Art schools and private institutions offering courses in music, painting, photography, cinema, journalism and humanities, require the permission of the Ministry of Culture & Islamic Guidance.
  • University programs require the approval of MSRT and MHME and, depending on their courses, may also require permissions from the Ministry of Culture & Islamic Guidance and the Ministry of Labour.
  • Establishing foreign tertiary educational institutions and private universities in general, is currently not allowed in the mainland. For example, Carlton University of Canada and Chabahar International University are using the Free Trade Zones (FTZ) for this purpose. Some courses (eg. English preparatory courses) may be run in the mainland, but the university should be registered and located in the FTZ.
  • All students who study abroad must choose to study in universities and educational institutions that are recognised by MSRT, if they intend to receive an official Farsi equivalent of their foreign degree. Otherwise, their degrees will not be accepted by government organisations or government owned companies. MSRT has a listing of its recognised universities around the world, based on a country index. Degrees from most of the reputable Australian universities as well the TAFE system are accepted by MSRT.

An extensive Iranian Government-sponsored postgraduate scholarship program in Australia over recent years has ensured that Australian educational institutions and our education and training systems in general have official endorsement for quality and applicability to Iran’s needs. An Australian institutions approval list is maintained by MSRT in consultation with the Counsellor, Education and Science from the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran based in Canberra..

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Marketing your products and services

Market entry

Different market entry alternatives exist and are outlined below:

  • Recruiting private fee-paying students from Iran to study in abroad.
  • Setting up joint programs of study, where students take some of their courses in Iran and some in the host Australian university and receive a degree from the Australian university.
  • Dual degrees – similar to the joint program – but students will receive degrees from both Iranian and Australian educational institutes.
  • Franchising – an Australian educational institute allows an Iranian counterpart to offer its program in Iran and give a degree on behalf of the franchiser.
  • ‘Train the trainer' programs – as part of a joint/dual or franchising cooperation, or as an independent program for upgrading the knowledge and skill base of Iranian trainers.
  • Training programs offered as part of an industry project (eg. specialised training for engineers and technical people in a project in oil and gas, mining, agriculture, health and medical).
  • Management and business professional training, such as short-term courses, seminars and workshops on different business-related topics.
  • Sports and sports management training.
  • Consultancy services for setting up educational programs and systems, establishing/upgrading institutions and their management.

Establishing a presence in conjunction with an Iranian education partner/s is the preferred basis for market entry. Whether it be an agency or twinning arrangement, relationship building is vital to market entry.

An Iranian partner will better understand local business practices and will also have a ready network of contacts within the industry and more importantly Iranian Government regulatory authorities.


To establish or increase your profile in Iran, you must consider:

  • Visiting the country regularly – fact finding and networking
  • Running independent promotional seminars or workshops
  • Securing a local representative, or an educational/recruiting agent
  • Following up on previous visits (whether through telephone, email or faxes)
  • Learning about the cultural and regulatory issues in Iran
  • Preparing information packs about your institution, services and courses
  • Inviting genuine potential partners to visit your institution or facilities in Australia
  • Participating in local country solus and international exhibitions and education road shows
  • Sponsorship by your institution of the Austrade-managed Farsi language website education portal site (
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Links and industry contacts

Education–related resources

AusIran Study –
Islamic Azad University –
Institute for Training and Research –
International English Language Testing System (Tehran) –
Iran Fair –
Kish University and Monash University –
Ministry of Education –
Scholarship & Overseas Student Office –

Government, business and trade resources for Iran

Ministry of Science, Research and Technology (MSRT) –

Net Iran –

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Contact details

The Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) is the Federal Government agency that helps Australian companies win overseas business for their products and services by reducing the time, cost and risk involved in selecting, entering and developing international markets.

Austrade offers practical advice, market intelligence and ongoing support (including financial) to Australian businesses looking to develop international markets. Austrade also provides advice and guidance on overseas investment and joint venture opportunities, and helps put Australian businesses in contact with potential overseas investors.

A list of Austrade offices (in alphabetical order of country) is available.

More information

For further information please contact Austrade on 13 28 78 or email

(Last updated: 29 Oct 2007)

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