Iran’s universities compete with the best and none more so than the prestigious Islamic Azad University. Founded twenty five years ago for private paying students the university has enjoyed phenomenal growth due to the huge demand for higher education. The university has one and a half million students taught by over 35,000 academics in three hundred campuses in Iran, and five overseas. One of its campuses, the Science and Research Centre is the largest university campus in the Middle East. It is clearly an influential institution, and a very wealthy one.
But there has been some trouble at the top, sparked by a recent attempt by President Ahmadinejad to appoint government trustees onto the governing board, reportedly to lessen the influence of his political rival at the university, the powerful Akbar Rafsanfani. This attempt was blocked by parliament. In response some supporters of the President protested in a manner which, according to the speaker of the parliament, Ali Larijani, was ‘ugly and vindictive’.
Azad University is an important institution for all Iranians, including Christians. It provides higher education at a price middle class Iranians can usually afford. It is important that it remains focused on its calling, education, and does not become a battleground for competing political rivalries. And it is important that Christians, in a wise way, witness to their fellow students, as Azad graduates usually go on to high ranking jobs where their life style and beliefs impact many.