NONPROLIFERATION: Dutch Revise Policy Blocking Iranian Students
Science 1 February 2008:
Vol. 319. no. 5863, p. 556
News of the Week
Dutch Revise Policy Blocking Iranian Students
The Dutch government this week backed away from an antiterrorism policy that had led one university to reject applications from Iranian students and triggered a loud protest among academics. But researchers complain that the revised policy will still make it hard for Iranian scholars and students to study in the Netherlands, and they fear that such policies could spread throughout Europe.
The original policy was the government's attempt to implement a 2006 United Nations resolution that asks all nations to "prevent specialized teaching or training of Iranian nationals … [in] disciplines which would contribute to Iran's proliferation [of] sensitive nuclear activities and development of nuclear weapon delivery systems." Last fall, the Dutch education and foreign affairs ministers told all universities to exercise "vigilance" in admitting Iranian students. In December, the University of Twente in Enschede announced that it would no longer accept Iranian students because the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) had asked for a guarantee that Iranians on campus would not gain any sensitive knowledge. Officials at the Eindhoven University of Technology said they would consult Dutch intelligence officials while considering Iranian applicants for admission.
Academics and students protested the new policy, calling it overly broad and discriminatory. Their objections were heard: This week, Twente officials said that INS has agreed to withdraw its demand for a guarantee and that the university would reopen its doors to Iranians. Robert Dekker, a foreign ministry spokesperson, says the government still intends to implement the U.N. resolution by barring Iranian students from admission to certain fields. (Students already enrolled face no such restrictions.) "The ministries and the universities are discussing which studies might fall under the resolution," Dekker told Science. The exclusion could include degree programs that are not directly related to nuclear technology but involve sensitive topics, he says.
Mehmet Aksit, a software engineering professor at Twente, wor ries that the revised policy could toughen an already restrictive visa policy toward Iranians. Although measures to stop nuclear proliferation are appropriate, Aksit says the Netherlands "should encourage intellectual exchanges with Iran."