British Academy urges the UK government to enable the strengthening of academic links with Iran

14 Jul 2015

The British Academy and the British Institute of Persian Studies today release a paper highlighting the obstacles to academic collaboration between the UK and Iran, and recommend how these might be overcome.

 ‘Strengthening Academic Collaboration Between the UK and Iran’ encourages UK policy makers to reduce the practical barriers to academic collaboration between the UK and Iran.

 The most pressing obstacles to academic mobility and research collaboration between the UK and Iran are the visa restrictions and the consequences of the current sanctions regime. The numbers of Iranian students in the UK and of UK students in Iran have been decreasing. Sustained collaboration between UK and Iranian research-active institutions, such as universities and museums, is particularly challenging due to the difficulty of securing visas on both sides and the stringent, often disproportionate, application of the sanctions regime by financial institutions in the UK.

 As the United States and other leading nations in research move to explore closer academic relations with Iran, the current difficulties on the UK side incur considerable reputational damage and risk diverting excellent Iranian scholars away from the UK to other countries.

 The British Academy and the British Institute of Persian Studies today highlight key recommendations on measures that the UK government could introduce to support stronger academic links with Iran, including:

 -       Put in place an institutional academic waiver system by which scholars visiting recognised UK higher education institutions, research-active organisations and associated entities can have visas processed more swiftly;

-       Issue detailed guidance for UK financial and banking institutions, as well as UK universities and other research-active organisations, clarifying the application of the existing sanctions regime to academic and related administrative transactions;

-       Negotiate an agreement with UK banking institutions whereby Iranian scholars hosted by UK higher education institutions, museums and other research organisations are able to open bank accounts in the UK and receive payments from their UK hosts; and

-     Work with Iranian counterparts to reach a mutually beneficial agreement on the mitigation of visa restrictions for UK passport holders who wish to visit Iran for academic and research purposes.

Professor Dame Helen Wallace DBE CMG FBA, Vice-President and Foreign Secretary at the British Academy, says: “The potential benefits of increased academic mobility and research collaboration between the UK and Iran are wide-ranging. Knowledge transfer through international cooperation in the context of higher education is a driving force behind socio-economic development. It also enhances our ability to address shared societal challenges, serves to promote cultural understanding, and helps boost research quality and reputation.”

 Professor Ali Ansari, President of the British Institute of Persian Studies adds: “Enhancing academic mobility and research collaboration between the UK and Iran constitutes an initial, important step towards building more open, constructive relations for the future”.

The full briefing paper can be read here: 

Notes to editors

1. For more information please contact the British Academy press office: [email protected] / 02079695227

2. The British Academy for the humanities and social sciences. Established by Royal Charter in 1902. Its purpose is to inspire, recognise and support excellence and high achievement in the humanities and social sciences, throughout the UK and internationally, and to champion their role and value. For more information, please visit Follow the British Academy on Twitter @britac_news

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