World Bulletin / News Desk
University of Massachusetts decision on the 6th February to stop admitting Iranian nationals to certain engineering and science programs at its Amherst campus has stirred charges of discrimination and a backlash among Iranian students who say it was unfairly imposed and could hurt the school's reputation.
According to NBC, the dispute stems from the United States' efforts to prevent the Iranian government from developing a nuclear weapon, which prompted a 2012 law that excludes Iranian nationals from studying in America if they planned to work in nuclear or energy fields.
Enforcement of that law usually rests with the State Department, that issues visas, and the Department of Homeland Security, which investigates threats. Generally, universities have depended on those agencies to weed out potential students seen as risks.
But last week, the University of Massachusetts said that with compliance getting difficult it was simply far easier to bar all Iranian nationals from enrolling in certain graduate programs in its College of Engineering and College of National Sciences.
The university listed several examples, including physics, chemistry, microbiology, polymer science, chemical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical and industrial engineering.
The law itself is a further clarification in 2013, from a law that was passed in 2012. The university posted the following on its website:
In August 2012, Congress enacted the “Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012,” (Pub.L. 112-158,, August 10, 2012), which excludes citizens of Iran from education in the United States if they plan to focus on nuclear and, more broadly, energy related research in Iran.
In July 2013, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security provided clarification on H.R. 1905, stating that Iranian citizens are ineligible for U.S. visas if they are seeking to participate in higher education in preparation for a career in Iran’s petroleum, natural gas, nuclear energy, nuclear science, or nuclear engineering fields.
Additionally, Iranian citizens seeking to study in other fields, such as business, management or computer science, but who intend to use these skills in Iran's oil, natural gas or nuclear energy sectors, are also ineligible for visas.
The most important part of the law is excerpted below:
The Secretary of State shall deny a visa to, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall
exclude from the United States, any alien who is a citizen of Iran that the Secretary of State
determines seeks to enter the United States to participate in coursework at an institution of
higher education…to prepare the alien for a career in the energy sector of Iran or in nuclear
science or nuclear engineering or a related field in Iran.