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Iranian Parliament Rejects Ahmadinejad University Proposal

Tehran's Islamic Azad University
Tehran's Islamic Azad University
Iran's parliament has rejected a university reform bill backed by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The legislators rejected the bill on June 20 in an education debate that is closely linked to political rivalries in the country, pitting supporters of Ahmadinejad against the reformist camp and one of its main leaders, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The proposed legislation dealt with the administration of Tehran's Islamic Azad University, one of the country's largest universities. The school is closely linked to Rafsanjani, a former president and rival of Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad's bill would have replaced the current head of the university, Abdullah Jasebi. It would also have changed the members of Azad University's governing board.

Mir Hussein Musavi, a Rafsanjani ally who officially came second to Ahmadinejad in last year's presidential election, had been on the Azad University board but was removed more than one month ago as part of a political shake-up.

Musavi had already been removed from the governing boards of the Council of Culture and Art, the Academy of Arts, the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, and the Teachers Training University.

Majid Mohammadi is a New York-based expert on Iranian higher education. He told Radio Farda that Azad University, although a private institution, is very much affected by national politics.

"Unfortunately, Azad University is administered in an unpredictable fashion, depending on the circumstances," Mohammadi said.

"Should [the university] need governmental support, it is counted as a government institution, allowing the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, a government body, to select its board members," he said. "But when it comes to collecting tuition from people, it acts as a private institution."

Mohammadi said that whatever changes in management might occur at the school, he doesn't think the quality of Azad University will improve.

"Where all attention is paid to increasing the incomes and assets of the university, there is not the slightest attention paid to [the university's
overall] quality," Mohammadi said.