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Why Rafsanjani’s real lasting legacy in Iran isn’t in politics

While long considered a pillar of Iran’s post-revolutionary political establishment, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s most lasting legacy is more likely in higher education.

Much has been said about the political legacy of former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani following his death Jan. 8 at the age of 82 from a heart attack, but his most lasting legacy will be in higher education. Ayatollah Rafsanjani was among the founders of Islamic Azad University (IAU) and served as head of its Founders' Committee, equivalent to chairman of the board, for three decades.

Iran's student population today exceeds 4.5 million, more than 5% of the population. In other words, one in every 20 Iranians is enrolled in some sort of post-secondary school diploma program. Researchers estimate that half of Iranians aged 18 to 24 are students, with 85% paying for their studies. This has created a steady revenue stream for IAU.

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