170 Years with the Quintessence of Iran's Higher Education: From Dar ul-Funun to University of Tehran (UT)

01 June 2021 | 10:54 Code : 17100 News
UT PR: 83 years after establishment of “Dar ul-Funun”(1851), the National Assembly of the time passed the Law of Establishment of UT on May 29, 1934 and two days later the Law was officially notified for execution.

According to the historical, social and cultural references, Amir Kabir's Dar ul-Funun was freshly incarnated in University of Tehran, as the first modern administration of the higher education of the country, and it entered a new era of development and role-playing in the Iranian society. Since then, it has been glittering like a shining star in the sphere of Iran's knowledge under various elegant titles such as "The Quintessence of Iran's Higher Education", "The Iranian University", "The Mother University", and “Iran’s largest Academic Institution”. 

What comes next is a note by Dr. Abbas Ghanbari Baghestan, Director General for Public Relations of UT, which reviews the historical trend of formation of "The Quintessence of Iran's Higher Education" from Dar ul-Funun in 1851 to the contemporary University of Tehran (UT). 

Establishment of Dar ul-Funun 

The policy of establishment of the first university in the contemporary history of Iran should be sought after in foundation of “Dar ul-Funun” in 1851 in Amir Kabir's era. Zargarinejad and colleagues in The History of University of Tehran (2018) write, " Being trained in the school of Mirza Bozorg and Abbas Mirza and having the new circumstances in mind, Amir Kabir laid the foundation of progress and modernization of the country through formation of orderly and legal government as his era of chancellorship arrived and as he summed up limited efforts of the past. He was determined to establish the Dar ul-Funun School to develop and deepen social self-awareness, transform mental status of the community, understand the necessity of modernization and create domestic backing for education and expansion of new knowledge. It was a school that should inevitably be considered the first university of Iran and the core and substructure of the first university of the country i.e. UT due to the essence of its goals, extensiveness of its duties and responsibilities, variety and multiplicity of presented fields and its level of education which was much higher than that of the traditional Madrasa or even schools in European countries" (32). 

Upon rereading Amir Kabir's thoughts on phenomenon of Madrasa and its differences with the contemporary schools of his era, Zargarinejad and colleagues argue that Ami Kabir laid the foundation of the first center for higher education in the country as he founded Dar ul-Funun. The believe, "As it will be demonstrated through dimensions of trainings, variety of fields, diversity of theoretic and practical educations, plans to dispatch graduates of Dar ul-Funun to foreign universities to continue and complete their education (Postgraduate Scholarship), prearrangement of dormitories and funding the students of Dar ul-Funun, Amir Kabir pursued policy of forming a governmental university via establishment of Dar ul-Funun, which received the title of school due to the customs of the era, as he planned to achieve his goals through such a center for higher education. Aa a supporter of new sciences in the eras of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar and Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar, Dolatabadi in regard to the educational essence and level of Dar ul-Funun writes, "the title of Dar ul-Funun was given to this institute as an imitation of foreign universities" (33).

Variety of educational fields including infantry, cavalry, artillery, engineering, medical and surgical practices, pharmaceutics, mining and also type and structure of the presented courses are among other reasons for considering Dar ul-Funun a university. Just like the modern universities, the courses were divided into general courses and specialized ones and students initially studied all general courses and then advanced towards specialized courses according to their majors. Geography, history, cartography, Persian medical practice and mathematics were among general courses taught at Dar ul-Funun based on historical books. 

Backgrounds of Forming the Idea of Establishing UT

Dar ul-Funun did not develop to the extent Amir Kabir had hoped due to political competitions, vindictive attitudes towards him and of course the demise of its founder. However, the historical experience of formation of Dar ul-Funun, the political circumstances, the social fabric and the culture which was created afterwards in the Iranian society led the community of elites, day after day, towards establishment of a comprehensive university that could play the role of Dar ul-Funun. In this regard, the objective and subjective reasons that guided  statesmen of the era of the First Pahlavi towards foundation of a great university included considerable evolvement of knowledge during the initial years of Persian Constitutional Revolution, successive formation of private and governmental schools during the final years of the Qajar Dynasty, establishment of colleges under the supervision and support of ministers and statesmen, gradual return of the first dispatched Qajar students in 1918 from Paris which led to a boom in social expectations to expand education and form The New Dar ul-Funun using the very same graduates who were now teaching in various schools such as the College of Political Sciences, College of Falahat and the Teachers' College. Such statesmen, who had graduated from Dar ul-Funun or had been taught there initially, witnessed the decline of their first education center from a university to a normal governmental school. Therefore, it was essential for them to establish another Dar ul-Funun in Iran, just like their own, with the spirit of a university (Dr. Zargarinejad and Colleagues P. 185). 

It is believed that Dr. Sang, a member of the National Assembly, was one of the first to come up with the idea of necessity of establishing a university in 1926. He had referred to dispatches of students abroad due to the absence of a domestic university and had asked the Minister of Education a question in regard to formation of a university and the Minister had replied, "I am concerned about the university, which could also be called the House of Knowledge, and I am preparing the grounds for it" (Zargarinejad and Colleagues, cited from Etela'at Newspaper No. 11922 March 3, 1964, the Column on 40 Years Ago).  

After drafting the idea of formation of a university, it is said that numerous figures among the community of elites of the era including Dr. Eisa Seddigh, Gholam Hussein Rahnama, Dr. Ali Akbar Siasi, Dr. Mahmoud Hesabi, Dr. Reza Shafagh, Mohammad Ali Gorgani and etc. had reminded the officials of the era of the matter. It is even believed that Abdolhossein Teymourtash, Minister of the Court, had assigned Dr. Eisa Seddigh to visit the USA and carefully study the knowhow of establishment of a university. Historically, Ali Asghar Hekmat, the Minister of Education, drafted and assembled the initial plan of formation of a university in 1931. This draft was discussed for two years and, in the end, it was enacted by the government cabinet in February 1933. Upon rereading memoirs of Hekmat on foundation of UT it is mentioned, "In February 1933, new constructed buildings in Tehran were discussed in the government cabinet. Everyone agreed that Tehran has developed during the reign of His Majesty. I seized the moment and said that nowadays the most distinguished buildings in great cities are the universities. It is a sign of defect for the Capital of the Kingdom to be lacking a university. The Shah immediately said, "Initiate the construction this year." Few nights later, the Shah ordered the Minister of Finance, late Ali Akbar Davar, to give 250 thousand Tomans to the Ministry of Education to build a university. He obeyed and the same amount was allocated in the budget of the next year, 1924" (Mohammad Dabir Siaghi 2005). 

Just like other official and legal procedures, the issue of establishing the university was handed over to the parliament after enactment in the government cabinet in February 1933. Following the implemented investigations in the commission of education and open session of the parliament, it was approved in over 20 legal articles and notes in May 29,1934. 

In the law of formation of UT and in its various articles, numerous issues such as permission to establish UT branches, selection of the Dean, duties of the UT Council, permission to give certificate of teaching (Bachelor degree) and etc. were predicted. It was also mentioned that UT will be founded as a result of insertion of colleges of the era such as Dar ul-Funun, Teachers' College, Faculty of Theology and Islamic Studies, School of Law and Political Sciences, Falahat School and College of Medical Sciences. Two days after enactment, this law was officially notified for execution by the parliament of the era in May 31, 1934. In regard to assigning a location to construct UT, it is said that the grounds were laid to allocate and purchase a land at the end of 1933 while the bill of UT establishment was being prepared to be handed over to the parliament. In the end, the Jalalieh Garden, the current location of UT, was allocated for construction following comprehensive investigations and consultations.

The Significance of Formation of Dar ul-Funun and UT

From the sociological point of view, there is a steady relationship between historical events and development. Sometimes a sequence of historical events leads to development and, on occasion, the turning points of developments turn out to be epoch-making. As a result, we cannot fathom how and why UT has achieved the current place without scrutinizing a comprehensive image of what went on historically during formation of Dar ul-Funun and then UT. 

A review of the historical memory of this country indicates the peerless role of Dar ul-Funun and its main legatee i.e. UT in development and flourishing of Iran especially in crucial historical turning points in the last two centuries. In this period, both Dar ul-Funun and UT have initiated numerous significant historical, political and social events apart from implementing the mission of educating humans. Therefore, the Public Relations of UT will try its best to provide a vivid image in this regard via a series of speeches, notes and interviews with instructors, historians and experts of this field in order to achieve an all-inclusive understanding of sequence of historical, scientific, cultural, political and social events and all that has led to formation of Dar ul-funun and its new identity i.e. UT in its current status. 

tags: University of Tehran Law of Establishment

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