Iran or the Islamic Republic of Iran is a country located in West Asia. It has land borders with Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkmenistan. Iraq is to its west, Pakistan and Afghanistan to its east and the three ex-Soviet republics to its north. The country has its maritime borders with the Gulf of Oman, the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. The country has a population of more than 81 million and is the 18th most populous country in the world. In terms of size, it is the 17th largest in the world. People of different ethnicities live in Iran. Other than Persian, which is the official language, a number of other languages are popularly spoken in Iran, like Arabic, Turkmen, Kurdish, Gilaki, Armenian and many others. Dating back to 2800 BC, the civilization in Iran is one of the oldest in the world. The earliest known Persian dynasty is thought to have started around 550 BC. Being an old civilization, Iran has a rich culture. Iranians are thus very rich in terms of the country's ability in various fields including art, architecture, literature, music, traditions, etc. Due to its strategic location in West Asia, it is today an important regional power and has been influential in matters related to politics there. It is thus a country rich in history, culture, natural beauty and diversity.Historical aspects
Iran has a very long history. It can be dated back to as early as the 4th millennium BC when early agricultural communities started living in the area. From the 10th century BC, the people living in the region were able to form themselves into 'pre-Iranian' kingdoms. Gradually the region came to be dominated by the Assyrian Empire. Other empires were formed in the later years, including the Achaemenid Empire, whose king Darius III was defeated by Alexander the Great. The later years saw the formation of the Parthian Empire followed by the Sasanian Empire. The period during the Sasanian Empire was the most influential period in Iran, as the influences reached far and wide, including India and China. The Sassanids ruled for four centuries till early 7th century AD, when it was replaced by the Islamic conquest of Iran. After the Islamic conquest, Iran began as a Sunni nation, but in later years its population converted to the Shia sect. As a result, Iran is today one of the very few countries with Shias being the majority population.Politics and government
Iran is a Unitary Theocratic Islamic Republic. The president is the head of the government in Iran, whereas the Supreme Leader is the head of the state. Even though the president is the highest popularly elected official in Iran, unlike other countries, the power and control of the country rest with the Supreme Leader. The president has limited control or power and has to function as per the wishes and decree of the Supreme Leader. The Supreme Leader at his wish can dismiss the president or any of the ministers at any time. The important decisions are all taken after getting the Supreme Leader's approval only. The most important ministries such as defence, foreign affairs, intelligence, etc are under the direct control of the Supreme Leader.International relations
The 1979 revolution in Iran was a very decisive factor in many aspects concerning the country, including its foreign affairs. The country has relations with most of the member states of the United Nations, but not with the United States and Israel. United States objection to Iran's nuclear program has been the biggest thorn in the relationship between the two countries. Concerning Israel, Iran derecognized the country ever since the revolution in 1979. Iran doesn't have much of a relationship with Saudi Arabia because of differences in political ideologies. Saudi Arabia is a Sunni majority state, whereas Iran is a Shia state. As far as its membership in international organizations is concerned, Iran is a member of a number of bodies including the UN, WHO, G-77, G-24, IMF, ILO, the Organization of Islamic State (OIC), OPEC and many others.Economy
Iran is a developing country with substantial influence in the international oil and gas market. With its large reserves of petroleum and natural gas, it is a big exporter of oil to a number of countries, including India. It thus holds an important position in matters concerning international energy security and is thus able to influence the price of petroleum products in the international market. The country's petroleum reserves are the fourth largest in the world and for natural gas, it is the world's largest.Geography
Iran is considered one of the most mountainous regions in the world. The landscape has numerous rugged mountain ranges. Most of the mountains are found in the western part of the country, which is also its most populous region. Some areas in Iran have a desert climate. The Kavir and the Lut Desert are the most renowned ones. The region located near to the southern shore of the Caspian Sea has lush green forests. With mountains, deserts, forests and seashores galore, the landscape of Iran provides for many awe-inspiring views. climate
The climate in Iran is very diverse. Iran has eleven of the world's thirteen climates. There are regions that are arid, semi-arid, subtropical, humid and some with sub-zero and heavy snowfall. Some parts receive rains for the most part of the year and some like the deserts are very dry and arid. The coastal plains, on the other hand, are hot and humid with very mild winters.Culture and tourism
An ancient civilization that Iran is, the country is renowned for its UNESCO World Heritage sites. No surprise, Iran is the fourth largest heritage site in Asia, with 22 recognized sites. Blessed with a long history, Iran has a rich cultural past. There are numerous ancient monuments and archaeological sites still left in Iran that tell its glorious past. There are world renowned museums and art galleries in the city of Tehran, the cultural capital of Iran. The numerous historical sites in the country attract tourists from Asia, Europe and beyond. With mountains galore, the country has an enchanting landscape filled with natural wonder. On visiting this place one is left with many memories that urge you to return and explore them again and again. It is no wonder domestic tourism in Iran is one of the largest in the world. As far as international tourists are concerned with, the numerous attractions in Iran have not been well-publicized in the western world. For Asian Muslims, the towns of Mashhad and Qom are important pilgrimage sites.
- Iran's capital is located at Tehran, a cosmopolitan city. The city is home to more than 12 million people.
- Historically, Iran has been known as Persia. It was only in the year 1935 that the country got its name changed to Iran. In the Persian language, Iran means, 'The land of the Aryans'.
- Before 1979, the country was a monarchy, ruled by the 'Shah of Iran'. In the revolution that followed, Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme leader took hold of the power and made Iran an Islamic Republic.
- The dominant religion in Iran is Shia Islam. It is also the country's official religion. Other than those having faith in Shia Islam; there are numerous other people belonging to religious faith like Sunny Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism.
- Before the Islamic conquest of Iran, It was Zoroastrianism that was the dominant religion in the region. Many of its followers eventually fled to countries including India. The Parsis in India are descendants of the people who left Iran for India.
- Religion plays an important role in the country's governance, culture and day to day living of the people. It is an integral part of politics and governance in Iran.
- The official language of Iran is Persian. It is the most popular language spoken by the people in Iran. Along with Persian, Arabic and English are also taught in the schools.
- Mashhad is the second largest city in Iran and the country's tourism hub. The tomb and shrine of the eighth Shia Imam, Imam Raja is located in this city and is thus a pilgrimage place for most Shia Muslims. On an average, more than 20 million people visit the city.
- During the 1980s, Iran fought a nine year long border war with Iraq. The war was devastating for both the countries.
- The Magi or the 'Three Wise Men' from the famous Christian nativity story, who brought gifts for newborn Christ, are believed to be Persians.
Admission Process in Iran
For admission to a university in Iran, you will have to prepare early. A typical academic session in Iran begins in the month of September. So it will be easy for you if you can start the preparation by January of the same year. Iran has numerous universities, many of them being very reputed ones. So research about the universities and decide which university you will be most comfortable with. Also, check for the numerous programs at different levels. You will get a deep discount in most universities if you seek to undertake a program in Persian language studies. Those who take up Islamic studies won't have to pay at all. So decide accordingly which course you will undertake depending upon your interest and suitability.
Other than checking on the universities and the level of the courses that you may opt for, check for the accommodation available in and around the cities in Iran. Also, check on the other costs to ensure that you will be able to afford living in Iran and study as well. You may then arrange for all the necessary documents, their true copies, your passport photographs and so on. Once you have all the documents ready and the acceptance letter from the university, mail it to the embassy or deliver in person. On application, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran allots a visa authorization number and sends it to the concerned embassy. The embassy if feels the need, will call you for an interview. Allow time for your visa application to be processed. In due time, you will be issued with the visa either by sending it to you by post or may arrange for it to be collected directly from the embassy or consulate.
Student Visa Application Process
Like most other countries, you will have to obtain a student visa, if you are intending to study in Iran. One need to start early, to obtain the visa well in time before the course begins. At times, an interview is conducted by the authorities at the diplomatic mission of Iran located in your country.
Following are the other requirements for obtaining a student visa for Iran.
- Completely filled in visa application form in two sets.
- Two recent passport size photographs.
- A letter of acceptance from a recognized university or educational institution in Iran.
- Necessary visa application fees.
It takes a minimum of one month to get your visa application processed. It is advisable to apply for the same well in advance and by no means later than two months from your intended date of travel. It is the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that decides on the grant of the visas. It is worth mentioning that the student visa does not permit you to work in Iran, either part-time or full-time.
Iranians are very warm and friendly people. They are very welcoming towards foreigners and are known the world over for their hospitality. Foreign students coming to Iran have a one of a kind experience studying here because of the exceptional hospitality they are extended to by the local people.
Iranians also like to socialize in the numerous art galleries, concerts, theatres, parks and cafes. They also get to communicate with foreigners irrespective of language barriers.
Like art, literature and culture, Iranian food too is very diverse. Iranians prepare a range of mouthwatering dishes that are baked, fried, roasted or prepared in the form of stews, soups and kababs. Then there is an assortment of salads, sweets, desserts and confectionaries that one can relish while in Iran. Many of the dishes are famous all over the world and chefs in most star hotels in various countries draw inspiration from Iranian cuisine. Iranians are thus very fond of good food and they can be spotted at numerous cafes and coffeehouses, juice bars, snack bars and ice cream parlours that abound the cities in Iran.
Iran is a developing country. It has its share of rich and the poor people. There are people who live in extreme poverty as well as there are others who are very well to do. Among sports, soccer is the favourite pastime for most Iranian sports lovers. Blessed with plenty of seas, Iranians as well as others love to enjoy their holidays at the beach.
Cost of Living for Students
The cost of tuition fees in Iran varies with the course and the university you are undertaking the program. The University of Tehran has one of the highest tuition fees in the country, ranging from 7,000 to 9,000 US dollars yearly for the undergraduate programs. The postgraduate programs cost you around 6,500 to 8,200 US dollars. In comparison, the tuition fees in the University of Tabriz is only 800 to 4,000 US dollar a year.
In general, international students who are into Persian language or literature studies, as well as Iranian studies, are given a discount of 15% in their tuition fees. Those pursuing postgraduate studies in the above subjects are given an additional 50% discount. International Muslim students pursuing Islamic studies in Iran have the additional advantage of full waiving of all their expenses including tuition fees, boarding, medical and living expenses.
The living costs in Iran depend upon the city and the locality you are staying. In general, it costs around 500 US dollar a month for renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city centres. Those willing to stay in the outskirts of the cities may get the same at 300 dollars per month. The costs are considerably less if you can get to stay in the dormitory accommodation provided by some of the universities. Other than the rent you will have to pay for food, travel, telephone charges and leisure. All these costs are much lower compared to those in the western countries, including the United States. However, a can of beer in Iran is double the price of that in the United States. The Iranian society being conservative in certain aspects does not encourage the party culture that is prevalent in the West and many other countries. As such the high prices on such products as beer.
Other than the above costs, you may have to pay for charges for health insurance. While it is not compulsory in some of the universities to have a health insurance, it is advisable to have one from local insurance firms in Iran itself. If one has health insurance from his or her home country itself, then also no issue, except that everything may not be covered while you are in Iran. So obtaining a Health insurance from Iranian insurance firms is the best option for international students.
Documents for University Admissions in Iran
For obtaining admission in the universities in Iran and subsequently a student visa, you will need the following documents.
- Academic mark sheets and certificates from your previous exams.
- Letter of acceptance from the concerned university where you have applied for.
- Completed visa application forms.
- Recent passport size colour photograph.
- A passport with a validity period of at least six months and minimum two blank pages.
- A copy of the passport
- Visa processing fees, paid through bank drafts and payable to the Embassy of Iran.
- Stamped return envelope for the visa to be sent at your registered address in your home country.