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Iran's Top Students Opt For Northern American Universities, Official Says

Entry gates to Tehran University, one of the most prestigious universities in Iran.

Entry gates to Tehran University, one of the most prestigious universities in Iran.

Iran's top students are choosing North American universities to pursue masters' and doctoral degrees, according to a senior Science Ministry official.

Mehr news agency quoted Hassan Moslemi Naeini, the head of the ministry's General Bureau of Scholarship and Overseas Students Affairs, as making the comment on December 22.

It's not clear how many such students are at North American universities.

Naeini said that half these students receive scholarships from universities in the United States and Canada. He added that since about five years ago, sending Iranian students to study at universities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada on Iranian government scholarships has been banned.

Paris-based academic Saeed Peyvandi told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the main reason why Iran's top students leave the country to study abroad is conditions at Iranian universities. The negative atmosphere at universities in Iran, pressure on students, and lack of educational possibilities drive Iranian students to leave the country, Peyvandi said.

Peyvandi added that less than 3 percent of Iranian students studying abroad have government scholarships.

Iranian universities have tried to dissuade students from leaving the country.

Last year, one of the top universities in Tehran provided students who had been offered admission and scholarships from 20 top world universities with new opportunities. The Sharif University of Science and Technology offered such students admission to masters' and doctoral programs without sitting an entrance examination.

Peyvandi said he does not think such measures can stem the brain drain from Iran. "It is the social, educational, and political conditions in Iran that should change," he said.

According to a 2009 report by the International Monetary Fund, Iran ranks first among 91 developing and underdeveloped countries in the number of specialists leaving the country.

Listen in Persian here.