University of Tehran: 8oth Anniversary

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi
Deputy Editor of Iran Review

Today is the 80th birthday of the mother university of Iran, Tehran University. The University of Tehran, also known as Tehran University and UT, is Iran's oldest and most prestigious university. Based on its historical, socio-cultural and political pedigree, as well as its research and teaching profile, UT has been nicknamed "The mother university of Iran". It is almost always ranked as the best university in Iran in national and international rankings. It is also the premier knowledge producing institute among all OIC countries. The university offers 111 bachelor degree programs, 177 masters' degree programs, and 156 Ph.D. programs. Many of the departments were absorbed into the University of Tehran from the Dar al-Funun established in 1851 and the Tehran School of Political Sciences established in 1899.

Admission to the university's renowned undergraduate engineering programs is very competitive and is limited to the top one percent of students who pass the national entrance examination administered yearly by the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology.


Rooted in Jondi Shapur University which goes back over 2,000 years, the University of Tehran in its traditional form was established seven centuries ago. It was founded firstly in religious seminaries ("Houza" or traditional religious schools). Other than religious studies, the education then covered mathematics, astronomy, medicine, literature, biology, physics and chemistry. During the modern era, the University of Tehran evolved from a religious structure to a more modern and academic structure of higher education. Dar-ol-Fonoon College was the first engineering school in its modern form which was established almost a century ago.

This was 20 years before the establishment of similar colleges in Tokyo (Japan). Amir Kabir, the Prime Minster of Iran during the Qajar dynasty (1848-1851), having witnessed the modern sciences during his journey to Russia and the Ottoman Empire, established Dar-ol-Fonoon College. Engineering, medical and industrial sciences were among the programs taught at the College. The first instructors of the College were seven professors from Austria. Dar-ol-Fonoon was turned into an official state-run university, the first dean of which was the foreign minister of the time, Mirza Mohammad Ali Khan.

The initial plan of turning the College into a national university was ordered by Abdol-Hossein Teimoortash, Minister of the Court of the time to Doctor Isa Sedigh. The plan was ratified by Reza shah. The plan would establish faculties of Theology (Ma’ghool-o-Manghool), Natural, Economics and Engineering Sciences. The Minister of Science at the time, also in charge of implementation of the plan was Ali Asghar Hekmat, whose collections of books are kept at the University’s main library. Other teacher training colleges and Industrial schools became subdivisions of the University to which ad hoc schools and institutions would be added. It was not until 1933 that the plan was passed by the National Parliament. Due to the absence of large buildings, the mansion of the Teachers Training College for example was adopted for the Faculty of Humanities and Literature.

The University of Tehran was inaugurated in the winter of 1934. Ali Asghar Hekmat, the Minister of Science, became the first Dean of the University. The University Council was constituted of several prominent faculty members including Loghman-o-doleh and Dr. Amir A’lam from Medicine; Dehkhoda and Sedig Hazrat (Mohammad Mazaher) from Law; Sedigh A’lam and Mirza Gholam-Hossein Khan Rahnama and Dr. Siasi from Literature and Humanities; Haj. Seyed Nasrollah Naghavi and Badi-o-zaman from Ma’ghool –o- Manghool; and Dr Hesabi and Amin from the Faculty of Engineering. Also, Dr. Vali-o-llah Khan Nasr was added by the Science Ministry due to his contributions to the University.


The emblem of the University of Tehran, which was designed by Dr. Mohsen Moghadam, a late faculty member of the Faculty of Fine Arts, is based on an image, which can be found in the stucco relief and seals of the Sasanid period. In this case, it is a copy from a stucco relief discovered in the city of Ctesiphon.

The seal symbolized ownership. In the Sassanid period, these seals were used in stucco reliefs, coins, and silver utensils as a family symbol. Since the alphabet of Sasanid Pahlavi’s script was used in these badges, they have the nature of a monogram as well.

The motif is placed between two eagle wings. One can also find these motifs in other images of this period, such as in royal crowns, particularly at the end of the Sasanid period. Crowns with these seals have been called “two-feather crowns” in The Shahnameh. The motif between the wings was made by combining Pahlavi scripts. Some scholars have tried to read these images. The script is in the form of “Afzoot” (Amrood), which means plentiful and increasing.

Main Entrance

The University of Tehran main entrance was designed in 1965 by Korosh Farzami, one of the students of the faculty of Fine Arts of the University. The structural engineer was an Armenian-Iranian by the name of Simon Sarkissian. Due to the importance of the University, these gates have gradually become the symbol of Iran's Higher Education system. University of Tehran gates are depicted on the reverse of the Iranian 500 rials banknote.

Present Status

The academic staff of the University consists of 1,650 full-time faculty members and several hundred part-time and adjunct professors and affiliated members. The University of Tehran has a broad range of international adjunct faculty members. The University also employs 3,000 personnel who work at the different offices, institutes and centers. The University has 19,000 undergraduate and 13,000 graduate students.

TheUniversity has 6 colleges with a total of 39 faculties and 120 departments at its 7 campuses located in the cities of Tehran, Qom and Karaj as well as its Kish International Campus (in Kish Island). The University of Tehran, as the main research University of the Country, offers more than 300 post graduate programs.

Fifteen percent of the country’s Centers of Excellence, as recognized by the government, are located at the University of Tehran, which along with more than 40 research centers ensure UT’s commitment to research. Together, over 3,500 laboratories are active in these centers and in the faculties. In addition, the University of Tehran publishes more than 50 scientificjournals, some of which have the ISI index.

Libraries and Publication Center

The Central Library and Documentation Center of the University of Tehran has been a member of the International Federation of Library Associations and institutions (IFLA) since 1967. The Central Library is the largest academic library in Iran. The library compliments the 35 specialized libraries based at different faculties, all with the aim of advancing the research goals of the University. Currently the Central Library and Documentation Center is offering its services to more than 65 thousand members. It hosts more than 5,000 users daily. The library offers its resources under 13 main collections (most of which have been donated by distinguished professors of the University). The manuscript collection of the University of Tehran includes over 17,000 volumes of manuscripts in Persian, Arabic and Turkish. The library also hosts a state of the art center for the preservation of manuscripts.

The University of Tehran Press (UTP), which focuses on publishing academic books, has published over 5,000 books up until today, and currently publishes on average more than one book per day. UTP has over 96 distribution agents throughout the country as well as one in Afghanistan.

Cultural & Academic Activities

The University of Tehran hosts many cultural and academic activities on the national and international levels. UT enjoys the cooperation of foreign countries in holding international conferences, seminars and workshops. In 2008, close to 1,000 UT professors and graduate students have taken part in international conferences with university funding. Furthermore, UT regularly hosts many delegations and professors from abroad.

The University has a psychological well-being consultation center including a twenty four hour hotline to help struggling students, especially to reduce stress during examination periods. The University’s student clubs sponsor numerous activities including domestic and overseas trips. Furthermore, in order to promote academic excellence among students, the University hosts more than 118 Scientific Associations. There are also 14 Student Unions active in cultural, welfare and academic affairs.

In the national festival of "Nano-Technology Bests", three researchers of the University of Tehran were awarded for excellence in research and writing dissertations.
Also 56 faculty members of UT have been honored in 7 rounds of the Unforgettable Faces Festival of Iran (a major and prestigious cultural event in the country.

Office of International Relations

The Office of International Relations provides information and assistance to international students, faculty members and researchers. It also establishes links between UT and other Iranian universities on the one hand and foreign universities, research institutes and centers on the other. The Office of International Relations offers advice and services to all international students and scholars. It provides opportunities for academic members and students to participate in international conferences, seminars and workshops. It also enjoys close relationships with many international associations and cooperates in offering its services for joint conferences, membership in international associations and sabbatical leave.


Initially University of Tehran included six faculties:

• Faculty of Theology
• Faculty of Science (1934)
• Faculty of Literature, Philosophy and Educational Science
• Faculty of Medicine (1934)
• Faculty of Pharmacy (1934)
• Faculty of Dentistry (1939)
• Faculty of Engineering (Fanni) (1942)
• Faculty of Law and Political Science
• Faculty of Economics

Later more faculties were founded:

• Faculty of Fine Arts (1941)
• Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (1943)
• Faculty of Agriculture (1945)
• Faculty of Management (1954)
• Faculty of Education (1954)
• Faculty of Natural Resources (1963)
• Faculty of Economics (1970)
• Faculty of Social Sciences (~1972)
• Faculty of Foreign Languages (1989)
• Faculty of Environmental Studies (1992)
• Faculty of Physical Education
• Faculty of Geography (~2002)
• Faculty of World Studies (~2007)
• Faculty of Entrepreneurship

In 1992, the faculties of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacology seceded to become the Tehran University of Medical Sciences but is still located at the main campus (The central Pardis).


University of Tehran also co-ordinates several major institutes:

• Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics
• Institute of Geophysics
• The International Research Center for Coexistence with Deserts
• Institute of History of Science
• Institute for North American and European Studies
• Institute of Electrotechnic
• Center for Women's Studies
• Applied Management Research Center
• Dehkhoda Dictionary Institute
• Vehicle, Fuel, and Environment Research Institute
• Turbo Machine Institute
• Institute of Petroleum Engineering
• Water Institute
• The Research Institute of Energy Planning and Management
• The Engineering Optimization Research Group
• Biomaterial Research Institute
• Advanced Material Research Institute
• Inorganic Material Research Institute

Notable People

Many of the most important figures in Iranian political, academic and social life have been associated with the University of Tehran.

Politicians include the nationalist leader Mohammad Mosaddegh, Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, and the recent reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

Academics include Lotfi A. Zadeh the inventor of fuzzy logic, Ali Javan who invented the gas laser and is ranked number 12 on the list of the top 100 living geniuses, intellectual and former Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan and biophysicist Mohammad-Nabi Sarbolouki.

Art figures include renowned filmmakers Abbas Kiarostami and Asghar Farhadi, actor Khosrow Shakibai and poet Mohammad-Taqi Bahar.

Alumni from the University of Tehran’s predecessor institutions the Dar ul-Funun and the Tehran School of Political Sciences include linguist Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda, Bahá'í scholar Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl and former Prime Ministers Mohammad-Ali Foroughi and Ali Amini.