Universities in Iran have announced that dozens of academic programs in the coming year will be "single-gender," which effectively means they will be exclusively offered to men, the Telegraph reported Monday.
According to the report, 36 universities have said that 77 BA and BSc degrees will no longer be coed. Under the new policy, female students will be excluded from a broad range of studies in some of the country's leading institutions, including English literature, English translation, hotel management, archaeology, nuclear physics, computer science, electrical engineering, industrial engineering and business management.
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In recent years, female students in Iran have outperformed men, a trend that defies the traditional male-dominated outlook of the country's religious leaders, the British newspaper said. Women who passed this year's university entrance exams outnumbered men three to two.
The trend has raised concerns among senior clerics in the Islamic Republic's theocratic regime about the social changes brought forth by the rising educational standards among women, including declining birth and marriage rates.
Iran's Oil Industry University, which has several campuses across the country, said it will no longer accept female students at all, while Isfahan University said it would exclude women from its mining engineering degree. The schools cited lack of employer demand as the reason behind the measure.
Iran's most celebrated human rights campaigner, Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, has urged the UN to probe the reform, claiming that the real agenda was to reduce the proportion of female students to below 50% – from around 65% at present – thereby weakening the Iranian feminist movement in its campaign against discriminatory Islamic laws.
Iran has highest ratio of female to male undergraduates in the world, according to UNESCO.
"(It) is part of the recent policy of the Islamic Republic, which tries to return women to the private domain inside the home as it cannot tolerate their passionate presence in the public arena," wrote Ebadi, a human rights lawyer exiled in the UK. "The aim is that women will give up their opposition and demands for their own rights."
Tehran's science and higher education minister, Kamran Daneshjoo, dismissed the criticism, saying that 90% of degrees remain open to both sexes and that single-gender courses were needed to create "balance".
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