In what the New York Times called “an elaborate act of communal self-preservation,” the Baha’i community in 1987 established its own higher education programmeme to meet the educational needs of young people who had been systematically denied access to higher education by the Iranian government.
The Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) is an informal arrangement because the Iranian government will not allow the establishment of any Baha’i institutions in Iran.
Initially, the BIHE made use of the volunteer services of Baha’i professors and lecturers who had been dismissed from their university posts. The Institute operated largely by correspondence. Later, classes and laboratory work were carried out in private homes and basements. Online studies were added in more recent years.
In September and October 1998, agents of the Iranian government staged a series of sweeping raids, arresting at least 36 members of the BIHE’s faculty and staff and confiscating much of its equipment and records, which were located in over 500 homes. In subsequent years there have been periodic onslaughts of varying intensity against this endeavour, most notably in 2001 and 2003.
The BIHE nevertheless continued to conduct its courses according to the highest academic standards.
At the time of the latest raids on its staff and resources, it was offering 17 university-level programmemes. Some 200-300 people were teaching classes and supporting its work by way of administration. An average of 1000 students apply to BIHE every year.
The BIHE issues a degree to its graduates but, since the Iranian government does not recognize the Institute, the degree is not certified. Nevertheless, a number of universities in Europe, North America, Australia, and India, have admitted BIHE graduates to pursue post-graduate studies. Most of these students return to Iran upon the awarding of their degrees and, in turn, volunteer to teach courses, enabling the BIHE to maintain its academic standards.
There can be no doubt that the attacks on the BIHE are being carried out under a centrally orchestrated campaign aimed at demoralizing Baha’i youth and eroding the formal educational level of the community so as to hasten its impoverishment.
Not content with excluding Baha’is from the nation’s universities, the Iranian government is callously revitalizing its efforts to thwart the educational arrangements that the Baha’i community has undertaken to enable its youth to expand their knowledge beyond the high school level.Return to top