The Business Year

Reza Roostaazad

IRAN - Health & Education

Forging New Paths

President, Sharif University of Technology

Bio

Reza Roostaazad graduated from Kharazmi High School and went on to study Mathematical Physics. He has carried out 39 scientific research projects, published 43 papers in national and international journals, and presented 68 essays to prestigious national and international conferences. In addition, he has advised 80 graduate and doctoral students during his time at Sharif University of Technology. Prior to becoming the university’s President, he conducted research as Vice-President for five years.

How would you judge the level of higher education in Iran? When you survey Iranian society, one of the main features that you come across is people’s eagerness to educate […]

How would you judge the level of higher education in Iran?

When you survey Iranian society, one of the main features that you come across is people’s eagerness to educate the younger generation. Having said that, we have an eager generation of learners. In terms of the system we are offering, it meets and even exceeds world standards, and is at the cutting edge of education. Without any hesitation, our graduates are seeking and finding great jobs all over the world. At our university, we are teaching courses that incorporate the latest findings in science and technology. In terms of quantity, we have 4.5 million students enrolled in universities in Iran, out of a total population of 75 million. We get the sense that the number of graduates is acceptable; at the moment, the overflow of students from Iran travel to other countries in the Persian Gulf or beyond, especially those working in the oil, energy, business, and telecommunications sectors.

What is Sharif University doing in order to prepare a fertile field for students that are seeking to enter the job market?

From the very beginning, we prepare students to network within their own discipline or in others. In order to establish an enterprise, entrepreneurs need to have a solid network to support them, and companies require trust and familiarity. From this point of view, the four years of education we offer can be a valuable asset. We recommend students to take their time, allowing a kind of incubation period. Over the past couple of years, about 100 knowledge-based companies have come about as a result of this approach. We benefit from the various technology parks in the area. Many of our graduates are setting up companies, and we are supporting them. It is a very in-depth and sound system. Based on this, I believe that the university’s rate of growth should continue at a rapid pace in the future.

How does Sharif University combine its students’ entrepreneurial initiatives with the activity at local technology parks ?

We are pushing programs in the research department so that professors get connected with the industry and are awarded grants or contracts to carry out certain jobs or projects. Then, they set up research groups with students working to obtain a PhD, Master’s, or even an undergraduate BSc diploma. Shortly before graduating from the university, the students are introduced to an industry. In many cases, they continue on this trajectory or brainstorm new ideas with their professors to set up initiatives that could serve the industry. After they graduate, some students take advantage of the loans and support systems that we can offer as they work to establish their own company. We can also provide other financial support or consultation. In rarer cases, the students do not even graduate because they enter the business and forget about the certificate. I had an MSc student that left the school in his second year to start his own business in the food industry.

“The main resource for education is people—not buildings, money, or supplies.”

What are the prospects for the future of higher education in Iran, and the future of Sharif University?

The future will be fantastic. The main resource for education is people—not buildings, money, or supplies. We have a lot of students here who are very enthusiastic and trust in higher education. When I was studying in Canada, our group was doing excellent work. People from the industry who were supporting the grant for my professor received reports from us twice per year, and each time they came to the school and saw the presentations that we delivered, they were impressed. They asked, “How could you get this much work from your students? Why are we paying our employees maybe two or three times more, just to find that they are not doing great work?” This was very important for me, and I have made it our mission to get our students working. We were presenting technology as an important research topic before, but people were not interested because they could get it from outside. Many of the grants and contracts did not come to the university before, but they are coming more frequently now—maybe 50% of the university’s budget is sourced from local industry, which is fantastic. It is a good opportunity for us and we are aiming to use it very wisely.

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