Following the historic nuclear agreement signed in July between Iran and global powers, there are important opportunities for international education providers, research institutions, training companies and edutech specialists to engage with the Iranian market – with Iran’s President making it clear that a partnership / investment-led approach is key.
President Hassan Rouhani has encouraged non-Iranian companies and institutions to enter the market bringing investment and technology that will benefit young Iranians and create jobs.
“Foreigners must bring investment and technology and partner with Iranians so that both sides can benefit by winning a share of the Iranian and regional markets,” Rouhani told reporters in Tehran in August. “The ultimate aim is to create employment for our youth.”
Invest in Youth
Iran’s 80 million population is young (30% under 18), urban (70% living in cities) and keen to improve business, technology and language skills.
David Mitchell, Levant Education Group CEO, visited Tehran in September on a market research trip. “The country has struggled under the sanctions, with high inflation and 10.9% unemployment. Low oil prices aren’t helping either. But there is renewed optimism since the nuclear deal, a noticeable openness to international visitors and companies, and huge potential for international exporters and brands”.
“There are English language training companies on every high street, and one career training college I visited enrolls 6 million (part time) students every year, on international business, IT, management and language courses.
“Iran’s largest university, Islamic Azad University, is privately operated, has 100 campuses in Iran and abroad, and serves 2 million students every year.
“The opportunities for both Iranian and international investors, businesses and institutions are exceptional – for example international licensing, institutional partnerships, research collaborations, curriculum development, accreditation and validation, publishing and online education, teacher training, Trans-National Education, and so on”.
A further concern for the Iranian government, along with ensuring foreign investment benefits Iranian youth and business, has been to reduce the flow of bright young Iranians leaving the country.
The USA is the top destination for students heading abroad for Higher Education. The Institute of International Education ‘Open Doors’ publication of international student data (2015) reveals that student numbers to the USA from Iran increased by 11 percent to 11,338 – the seventh year of double-digit growth and the highest U.S. enrollment by Iranians in 27 years. The UK, according to HESA and UNESCO figures, has around 3000 Iranians in Higher Education.
However student mobility and academic collaboration bring benefits for all sides. According to French government report ‘L’observatoire des Sciences et des techniques’, Iran had the highest growth rate in scientific production output between 2002 and 2012, as well as the biggest increase in academic impact and international academic citations. Improved relations and diplomatic measures would not only boost international research collaborations, but also encourage a boom in foreign undergraduates pursuing degrees in Iranian Studies and/or the Farsi language, spending time in Iran. Iranian students, researchers and business people will need the advanced English skills and international exposure that comes from studying abroad.
More generally, Iran is opening up to international brands, products, technology and ideas. Companies such as Huawei, Unilever, BAT, Danone, Bayer, Samsung and Mitsubishi are hiring in Tehran. Embassies are opening. Advertising and media firms are focussed on preparing for the ‘big bang’ of global brands arriving en masse. Students are mobilising, academia is internationalising.
The improving diplomatic situation and resulting increases in pedagogic and commercial exchanges promise to enable a flow of ideas and provide further opportunities for academic research, knowledge transfer, technology, student exchange, and business development, which in turn will boost cultural relations, socio-economic development, competitiveness and prosperity.
Iran Education, Training and Technology Forum, 2016
This event will bring international education providers, training companies, universities, technology companies, curriculum development companies, test providers, teacher training specialists, language training companies, online education providers and similar to Iran for the first time.
The Forum will comprise: Panels, Seminars, Presentations, Meetings, Networking and opportunities for discussion and relationship building all designed to assist participants to explore horizons for cooperation and to pursue potential joint ventures in the education, training and technology sectors.
Levant Education has worked closely with the governments of Azerbaijan (2011-16), Iraq (2013), with the Kurdish Regional Government (2011-2014), and with the European Union (2010-2012), on education and training events in Baku, Erbil, Istanbul, Dubai and London. This will be Levant Education’s first Iranian event, and support is expected come from the Iranian government, international academic & training bodies, universities and commercial providers.