About that UK degree, Pres. Rowhani
Dr. Who?Dr. Who?

About that UK degree, Pres. Rowhani

Where and when, exactly, did Iran's incoming president receive his doctorate?

Hasan Rowhani (photo credit: AP/Vahid Salemi)
Hasan Rowhani (photo credit: AP/Vahid Salemi)

The British educational background of Iran’s incoming president is coming under question, with a British newspaper last week reporting that Hasan Rowhani’s academic record in the UK was “under scrutiny” and an Israeli TV commentator on Sunday noting that his ostensible Glasgow university doctorate was the subject of investigation.

A battle has also been raging over Rowhani’s educational background on his Wikipedia page, with dozens of additions and deletions in recent weeks.

In January, the self-styled “independent online media project” Iran Election Watch reported on Rowhani’s claim, according to his official biography, to have received “an M. Phil. and a Ph.D. in Law from the University of Glasgow.” However, it said, it could find no record of any such academic achievement, and it said a university spokesperson also found “no record of anyone of that name” ever having attended the prestigious school.

In the course of the spring, the think tank headed by Rowhani, the Center for Strategic Research, amended his CV to show him graduating not from the prestigious Glasgow University, but from the still impressive if somewhat less prestigious Glasgow Caledonian University. Rowhani’s Wikipedia page was amended to reflect this change, and the think tank wrote to the Iran Election Watch site to draw its attention to the correction.

An Iranian election campaign film made the same claim.

However, Britain’s Telegraph noted last week that “the alteration has failed to clear up questions about Mr Rowhani’s credentials. While the film does not give a date for his studies, the narrative implies that it was during the 1970s, when he was an active political opponent of the Shah. Glasgow Caledonian was established in 1993. When a correspondent on Gulf 2000, a Middle East internet forum, pointed out this discrepancy, a supporter of Mr Rowhani responded with a newspaper web link purporting to show that he received his PhD in 1999 — but under a different family name, Feridon.”

The Telegraph report noted that there were problems with this account too, since it appeared to contradict the election film’s indication that Rowhani had received his doctorate before Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, and would also have meant Rowhani in 1999 was completing his doctorate while he was simultaneously leading Iran’s supreme national security council, and also sitting on Iran’s expediency council — no mean feat.

According to his CV, he had also been heading his think tank for seven years by then — without a doctorate.

The Telegraph quoted a spokesman for Glasgow Caledonian University as looking into Rowhani’s academic claims but being unable to confirm them.

Israeli Channel 2’s Arab Affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari noted dryly on Sunday evening that the matter of Rowhani’s Glasgow degree was “still being checked.”

On Rowhani’s Wikipedia page, the changed reference from Glasgow University to Glasgow Caledonian University appears to date from mid-April, which is also the period in which the reference to his alternative family name Feridon made its appearance.

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