Iran has imposed new restrictions on 12 university social sciences deemed to be based on Western schools of thought and therefore incompatible with Islamic teachings, state radio reported Sunday.
The list includes law, philosophy, management, psychology, political science and the two subjects that appear to cause the most concern among Iran's conservative leadership — women's studies and human rights.
"The content of the current courses in the 12 subjects is not in harmony with religious fundamentals and they are based on Western schools of thought," senior education official Abolfazl Hassani told state radio.
Hassani said the restrictions prevent universities from opening new departments in these subjects. The government will also revise the content of current programs by up to 70 percent over the next few years, he said.
The decision is seen as a response to concerns expressed last year by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said the subjects could lead to religious doubts. Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters in Iran, urged officials to take altering the curriculum into "serious consideration."
Some two million out of 3.5 million Iranian university students are studying social sciences and humanities, according to government statistics.
University students have played a key role in opposition protests in Iran, especially after the country's disputed presidential election last year, which opposition activists say hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won through massive fraud.
Since Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, he has pushed a revival of the fundamentalist goals pursued in the 1980s under the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, father of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.
In 2006, dozens of liberal university professors and teachers were sent into retirement, drawing strong protests from students. Liberal and secular professors teach at universities around the country, but they are a minority. Most are politically passive and do not identify with either the hard-liners or the liberal camp.
In 1980, Iran closed down universities for two years to get rid of partisan students of political groups, mostly armed leftist ones.