Lately a few Australian universities, including University of Adelaide, the University of Western Australia, and the University of Wollongong have tabled scholarship applications of all Iranian applicants in the 2013 Major Round until further notice. It is the same case for the applicants who have already got PhD admission.
The decision is attributed to Australian Government’s Autonomous Sanctions Act (2011). Apparently the reasoning behind it is that “all research projects have to undergo an additional and thorough review to ensure they do not breach international sanctions. As this is a time-consuming and complex problem which may take quite some months, it is not currently possible to indicate when applicants from sanctioned countries may be eligible for a formal letter of offer from the University” (Adelaide Graduate Centre, International Admission and Scholarship Application: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/graduatecentre/admission/form-international-applicants.html. Accessed November 25, 2012).
It must be mentioned that the decision is an unexpected one, had not been announced prior to the deadline of application, and it is not clear whether this is a conclusive legal case or a matter of subjective interpretation of a law, as the approach of different universities toward it has been different.
We, the undersigned, including current Iranian applicants and scholars of different Australian universities, find the decision abrupt, unjustified and discriminatory to Iranian scholars, also inconsistent with Australian academic principles (specifically with their policy on equal opportunity in employment and education) andunfavourableto the projects that could have been enhanced by the efforts of Iranian students, who normally are of the best graduates of their institutes with significant academic resumes. A simple observation could show how beneficial they have been to the institutes they are working in, not only in Australia but also in other high-ranked universities all over the world. They are mostly ordinary citizens who do not rely on any non-academic financial support (neither from the Iranian government nor from industrial sponsors), and thus for financing themselves they look for the most decent, but very competitive and arduous, way of getting funded which is through academic scholarships.
Although we understand the concern of the graduate offices concerning “likely breach of sanctions”, but then again we would like to refer them to unblemished record of Iranian scholars in Australia in the past. If, in a few exceptional cases, the assessment process needs to be done more carefully, it must not be at the cost of depriving all Iranian applicants from the equal opportunity of taking part in the competition that they would have a high chance to win.
Therefore we would like to ask for revising the above-mentioned decision as soon as possible, and taking the applications of Iranian citizens in the regular process of assessment.