University drops ban on Iranian science students

The University of Massachusetts Amherst on Wednesday stepped back from a policy announced earlier this month and will continue to allow Iranian students to enroll in its science and engineering programs.

The move reverses a plan announced on Feb. 6, which would have banned Iranian students from enrolling in some of its engineering and science programs.  

After talking with officials from the State Department and outside lawyers, the institution decided that was the wrong path forward, it said.

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“We have always believed that excluding students from admission conflicts with our institutional values and principles," vice chancellor Michael Malone said in a statement. “This approach reflects the university’s longstanding commitment to wide access to educational opportunities."

UMass had originally said that its policy to ban Iranian students from certain fields came in an effort to comply with 2012 sanctions that denied visas for Iranians coming to the U.S. to study with the intent of returning to work in Iran’s energy field.  

Some Iranian college students are being denied entry back into the U.S. after traveling abroad, the school said.

The new ban would be necessary “to ensure that we are in compliance,” UMass said at the time.

Critics, however, said that it went above and beyond the federal rules and unfairly excluded the students.

After an uproar, the university’s administration backed down.

“It is now clear, after further consultation and deliberation, that we can adopt a less restrictive policy,” Malone said on Wednesday.

Under the new policy, the university will develop individualized study plans when it decides to admit Iranian students in order to steer clear of any legal violations, it said.