Iranians barred from Swedish universities

Iranian nationals have been banned from Swedish university programmes with ties to nuclear and missile technologies following a warning from the country’s Säpo security service.

So far two Swedish institutions – The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg – have decided to turn away applicants from Iran.

“For us it means that we don’t accept Iranian citizens to our masters programme in nuclear technology,” said Chalmers spokesperson Magnus Myrén to the TT news agency.

The restrictions also affect students from North Korea, but according to Säpo there are only a handful of North Koreans studying in Sweden.

The measure comes as part of a 2007 European Union regulation connected to a 2006 United Nations resolution authorizing sanctions on Iran.

“It concerns not only that which is directly affected by nuclear weapons, but also aerospace technology,” Säpo spokesperson Patrik Peter told TT.

According to Sveriges Radio, Säpo, along with two other agencies – the Inspectorate of Strategic Products (ISP) and the Radiation Safety Administration (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten) – sent letters to the heads of security at seven Swedish universities alerting them to how their institutions could be affected by the restrictions on Iranians wishing to study in Sweden.

In the letter, the agencies explained that educational programmes are also covered in the sanctions laid out by the EU rule.

Specifically, the letter points out concerns about masters and PhD programmes in subjects which could involve technologies related to nuclear weapons or the rockets used to deliver them.

In addition to Chalmers and KTH, the letters were also sent to Luleå University of Technology, Lund University, Mälardalen University, Uppsala University, and Linköping University.

Although authorities in Sweden have developed a list of example programmes, it is up to each institution to decide which subject areas will be covered by the restrictions.

“The rule is somewhat fluid. This is an example of something which has dual use, both for civil and military purposes,” said Peter.

Peter could not say, however, whether the restrictions may lead to Iranians being arbitrarily ruled shut out of Swedish universities. Nor did Säpo have any estimates of how many people might be affected by the measures.

Peter added, however, that Säpo plans to evaluate the universities’ adherence to the directive.

Iranians make up the largest group of international students enrolled in masters programmes at Chalmers, with 120 students being admitted for the 2008 autumn term, according to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

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