PASSPORT TO SUCCESS

Iran 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Mahmoud Fotuhi-Firuzabad, President of Sharif University of Technology, on developing the education sector, alumni, and international partnerships.

Mahmoud Fotuhi-Firuzabad
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Mahmoud Fotuhi-Firuzabad is the current President of Sharif University of Technology, having been appointed in 2014. He graduated with an bachelor of science degree from Sharif University of Technology and received his master of science from the University of Tehran. After that, Dr. Fotuhi earned a scholarship from the Ministry of Science to pursue his studies at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada), where he received a master of science and a PhD degree. His scientific activities include more than 150 journals papers, and supervising more than 50 master’s and doctoral theses. He has been a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) since 2014.

How do you assess the role of Sharif University in the development of the education system in Iran?

Sharif University was founded 50 years ago and has become the leading technical university in Iran and among the best in the Middle East. The latest QS rankings have placed Sharif first in the country for the fourth consecutive year. Sharif graduates have gone on to become outstanding scientists, engineers, and, indeed, leaders worldwide. Our alumni have a presence in over 100 countries worldwide, and Sharif's global character has been shaped through its alumni and body of academic staff, who are pulled from all corners of the globe. We enjoy a unique position in the Iranian higher education system, and that is because our renowned quality of education and research makes us the top destination for undergraduates as well as those who wish to pursue postgraduate study. Of those admitted to Sharif last year, 97 were ranked in the top 100 and 600 were ranked in the top 1,000 in the national university entrance exam of 500,000 participants in physical sciences. Furthermore, Sharif contributes considerably to the country's higher education through its doctoral graduates, who are the prime candidates for faculty positions at top universities across the country. Of the 2,000 PhD graduates, more than 75% are currently faculty members of other universities in Iran.

How is Sharif University enhancing its presence in international academia and cooperating with foreign educational and research centers?

Internationalization is a high priority on our agenda, and we have thus actively promoted and encouraged international research and educational exchange. For example, Sharif is a member of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and has been an active participant in some of the most important experiments, such as the finding of the Higgs' Boson, or God particle. We have a number of joint research projects with L'École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Aalto University, University of Trieste, University of Arizona, UC Davis, and Koç University, to name a few. In addition, Sharif has enjoyed both long-standing joint-degree programs, like the one with the University of Grenoble, and short-term demand-driven ones like a joint executive degree program with the University of Calgary, Canada. We have a number of educational and research exchange programs whereby students and faculty members alike gain international experience and carry out research components, spending sabbaticals abroad. As part of this exchange, we also host international students and faculty in our departments and laboratories. In line with the university's internationalization strategy, we have recently allocated a number of scholarships for full-time international students from the Middle East and Central. In the post-JCPOA era, Sharif has witnessed a surge of interest from international bodies to collaborate with the university. Academic and business delegations visiting Iran have made Sharif their first port of call thanks to our body of alumni, who are well-respected academics and industry leaders worldwide.

Is 2016 a turning point for Sharif University's history in the education system?

The year 2016 is the 50th anniversary of Sharif University of Technology. The past 50 years have left a deep-rooted legacy in excellence in higher education in our country and the world at large. In order to continue on this path of excellence, we must constantly fine-tune our educational and research programs and retain and hire world-class faculty. In this context, in the 2016-2017 academic year we will implement a five-year strategic plan. The main objectives of the plan are: promoting interdisciplinary education and research; giving students more choices and say in their curriculum and research activities; enhancing the quality of campus life; contributing to the wealth generation in the country through commercialization of knowledge; helping our staff and students to establish knowledge-based start-up companies; and forming strategic partnerships with top universities and research centers across the world.