The Institute of International Education has launched a new initiative to reinvigorate collaborations between universities in the US and Iran.
The organisation said its US university delegation to Iran in June found that enthusiasm for educational and scientific cooperation from both sides is accelerating, particularly in areas of water management, food security, stem cell research, nanotechnology and health and environment sciences.
It added that the most likely modes of cooperation will be PhD sandwich programs and short-term research opportunities for Iranian PhD candidates, joint PhD advising, dual degrees and short-term courses for US students.
The IIE’s Open Doors 2014 Report on international education exchange found that there were 10,194 students from Iran at US higher education institutions during 2013-14 – the highest number in 26 years.
The organisation said Iran had been the top sender of students to the US from 1974 to 1982, with the number of students from Iran peaking at 51,310 in the 1979-80 academic year, but this number declined dramatically throughout the 1980s and 1990s, reaching a low of fewer than 1,700 students in 1998-99.
It added that while US-Iran academic engagement has been sporadic throughout the past several decades, the last few years have seen a rise in collaborative activities including visiting researchers, joint conferences and exploratory delegations.
In a briefing paper on the initiative, IIE president Allan Goodman said the initiative will enable the US to “establish bonds with a country that has been all but out of reach to Americans for three decades”, adding that academic cooperation is likely to lead to “better political relations immediately”.
However, speaking to Times Higher Education, Dr Goodman said that a US embassy or consulate in Iran is needed for there to be “substantial mobility” of students and scholars between the two countries.
“Substantial numbers of US students going to Iran will require some form of diplomatic presence on the ground, but there will be more and more US students interested in going to Iran,” he said.
“There’s been a continuity of academic relationships motivated by good science, good research and interested topics. That’s one reason Americans are interested interested in Iranian counterparts and vice versa.”