Vice-Chancellor: Show solidarity with Iranian students
11 November 2022
Following political tensions in Iran, Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Van de Noort explains how the University will support and show solidarity with Iranian students.
It is with great shock and horror that we have watched the appalling treatment of women and protestors in Iran over the past two months. Like many in our University community, I am very concerned by the severe way in which the authorities have tried to suppress the demonstrations. It has caused us particular unease to observe the police’s response to the protests. Those of us in the UK admire the bravery shown by women and young people who continue to fight for freedoms.
There are more than 50 Iranian students at the University of Reading, and in recent weeks we have learned of their concern about the problems they are witnessing in their home nation. Last week, I hosted a roundtable meeting with a group of Iranian students. We discussed the situation in Iran and what we could do to support our students. The students told us that many of their peers have experienced problems ranging from anxiety, stress, depression, headaches, and a loss of focus and motivation stemming from the worsening situation in Iran. We discussed how the University could provide practical support and raise awareness about the broad range of services available to them.
The University condemns attacks by the Iranian authorities on protestors, and stands with our students from Iran. Having spoken with Sheldon Allen, president of RUSU, and Paul Inman, Pro Vice-Chancellor (International), we have agreed a range of actions.
We can support our Iranian students with day-to-day living costs, if they are experiencing money problems. It is vital our students are not distracted by money worries and they are free to concentrate on their studies, so those who are struggling will be supported via our Student Support Fund. We have information available on Essentials which clarifies that International students can access this funding. We have also increased the support available during the Cost of Living crisis which will support our students to continue their study. On top of this, our student wellbeing service will work with Iranian students to identify and provide the emotional support needed at this time.
We are collaborating with Universities UK International and Student Unions across the country to highlight the plight of our current and future Iranian students. By working together with these groups, we hope to ease and eliminate any administrative hurdles our present and prospective students may be confronted with in the wake of the tensions. RUSU will work with the students to write to our local Members of Parliament and relevant authorities who can provide support outside of the university community.
Finally, we encourage the whole University community including the wider student population to support affected individuals during this unsettling time. Our values at the University include supporting each other, promoting excellence and encouraging freedom of speech. On many occasions in the recent past, our community has shown it is willing to stand up for these values. It is vital that we once again engage our values and offer friendship, support and solidarity with our Iranian peers at home and abroad.
Robert Van de Noort