The Iranian Ministry of Education has confirmed that the national university entrance examination, Konkur (or Concours – from the French), is to be formally phased out from the 2019 / 2020 academic year. The decision was made in January 2019 and represents a significant change to the higher education admissions system in Iran. This will be of interest to institutions in other countries looking to recruit Iranian students.
Competitive entrance examination
Until now, the Konkur has been the mandatory route for students wishing to gain admission to universities in Iran. The examination follows a multiple-choice format and is offered in four different academic streams. It does not have a grading scale; instead, students are ranked in order of achievement with the score of the top-ranking student being the highest grade available.
The examination is administered by the National Organisation of Educational Testing (also known as the Sanjesh Organisation), part of the Ministry. Until 2018, the Pre-University Certificate (پیش دانشگاهی), awarded after the final year of upper secondary school to those aiming to enter higher education, was the standard requirement for students wishing to sit the Konkur. However, the Certificate was phased out that year as an initial step towards removing the Konkur itself.
This change has been in the pipeline since 2017, following widespread criticism of system as the Konkur’s highly competitive nature has created an industry in exam-preparation classes. There has also been concern over its impact on the stress levels of students and on school instruction, the last year of which is focused entirely on passing the examination.
A different approach to admissions
From the 2019 / 2020 academic year onward, the Ministry is replacing the examination in favour of admission to universities based on students’ overall academic performance during the final year of upper secondary school. The mark awarded for the final externally administered examination taken by all students at the end of grade 12, which is detailed on the certificate awarded for the گواهينامه پايان تحصيلات دوره متوسطه (High School Diploma), will also be taken into account.
What happens next?
Specific details have not yet been released in Iran, although it is expected that institutions will have some autonomy in setting their own admission criteria. At UK NARIC, we will follow any further developments and continue to gather information on how Iranian universities will select students under the new system.