Since his election in the summer of 2013, President Rouhani has initiated a systematic plan to purge radical conservatives from powerful positions in Iranian universities. These conservatives view universities as a political tool that can be turned against the establishment, and vehemently control its operations. Since 2013, a counter-conservative force has started to protect academic freedom, and limit the influence of conservative forces. According to this article by Reza Akbari, “one of the biggest disputes between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s moderate administration and Iran’s conservative factions is centered on the issue of academic freedom. Conservative forces are attempting to stay in control of the country’s educational system, while the moderates are hoping to increase the autonomy of Iran’s universities. The outcome of this conflict will be a litmus test for the level of academic freedom permitted under the current administration.”
Rouhani’s government has injected new energy into Iranian universities. According to this article in the Economist, the “new president is giving students a longer leash.”
In a sign of more openness in Iranian academic environment, a prominent American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein has gone to Iran to give lectures for Iranian universities and students. In an Interview in Iran, Wallerstein said he is not “ not sure what attracts people to my work. Maybe it’s that I’m an American, I say things that Americans don’t usually say and I have an analysis which seems to resonate in a lot of countries,” the 84-year-old Wallerstein said in an interview Monday.