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."
Robbert Dijkgraaf stands up for Iranian students
Published January 11, 2008
University Professor Robbert Dijkgraaf was cited in the NRC Handelsblad of 10 January 2008 in reference to the disquiet which has resulted from a request on the part of the Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs and Science to Dutch universities. The Ministry requested that the universities exercise vigilance and that they prevent that students from Iran in the Netherlands come in contact with nuclear technologies.
Dijkgraaf finds it important that foreign students keep coming to the Netherlands. ‘And Iranian students in particular. They have a fantastic tradition in mathematics and physics and a thriving culture. In addition, you need to make it possible for young people to come to the West and to escape a certain regime. They need to be able to acquire knowledge from our open scientific practice,' stated Dijkgraaf in the NRC. ‘Not every first-year student learns atomic secrets. Education and research on nuclear issues, and in particular on nuclear weapons, are separate in the Netherlands.'
See the attachment for the original NRC interview.
February 04, 2008
By Ruben Temming
Iranian students are not welcome at the Technical University Twente in the town of Enschede. At the request of the Education Ministry and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the university has agreed not to admit any Iranian students. The government fears that Iranian students and workers would steal sensitive nuclear information to help their government develop nuclear weapons. The university's decision is the direct result of a 2006 UN resolution calling on member states to prevent Iran from gaining access to nuclear knowledge.
The UN has been concerned about the Iranian nuclear research programme for some time. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, says there is no evidence that Iran is developing its own nuclear weapon. However, at the same time Iran is accused of not providing sufficient information on its uranium enrichment programme.
The most recent US intelligence report on Iran also concludes that there is no evidence of an Iranian nuclear arms programme, but it does accuse Iran of withholding information. Tehran insists that its enrichment programme is intended exclusively for domestic production of the fuel rods needed for a nuclear power plant currently under construction.
Twente University is allowed to admit Iranian students on condition it guarantees they will not have access to nuclear information, a guarantee the university says it is unable to give. So far, three Iranian students have been refused. Iranians who want to study psychology would also be rejected. A spokesperson says students are free to wander around the campus, and 24/7 surveillance would be impossible. Iranian students already studying at Twente will be allowed to complete their studies.
Twente is the first technical university in the Netherlands to introduce such strict measures. The Delft Technical University says it first considers the subject that the applicant wants to study. In other words, Delft does not reject Iranian students on principle. The Eindhoven Technical University refuses to comment and refers all inquiries to the foreign affairs ministry.