Leader's Speech in Meeting with University Professors and Members of Academic Boards

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on October 5, 2006 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with university professors and members of academic boards.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Dear brothers and sisters, honorable professors and members of academic boards, welcome.

This meeting - it is several years now that we have been holding this meeting - has two main purposes. Of course, besides these two purposes, there may be other purposes in holding this friendly and warm meeting as well. The first purpose is showing our respect to the scientific position of outstanding personalities in our country. We wanted to show our respect to the honorable professors by providing this opportunity and holding this meeting which takes several hours and which provides a public podium - it will be broadcast on TV - for the honorable professors to express their viewpoints. In my opinion, this is a very important purpose. If we respect knowledgeable personalities, then knowledge will be respected as well and if knowledge is respected, it will grow and develop. We need this growth for the future of our country.

The second purpose is to gather a number of outstanding and well-informed personalities, scholars and experts on the issue of universities and knowledge in a friendly and warm meeting without any formality and consideration so that they can discuss the main issues of universities - of course, issues related to the scientific aspects of universities and the issues which are mainly related to university professors. The purpose of this meeting is to familiarize the environment of the meeting, the minds of the scientific officials of the country and consequently, the public environment of the country with the most important issues of universities, their needs and the plans that can be formulated for the future.

Personally, I myself benefited from the statements of the friends each year that we held these meetings. Each year, good points have become clear to me and as a result, good and appropriate measures have been adopted. You should have no doubts that during the past 10, 12 years, we have been witnessing a new movement in the area of scientific progress and growth, the growth of research and its different innovations. Although this movement has begun since the beginning of the Revolution, it has achieved more and better growth during the recent years. However, these are only primary steps. So, we still need your opinions, suggestions and subtle points for the progress of knowledge in the country. By Allah's favor, part of this need will be met in this meeting.

Now, I am ready [to listen to your statements]. The goal is not my statements. In this meeting, I would rather be a listener. If there is time, I will say a few things, but primarily, I prefer to be a listener in this meeting.

The statements that we listened to were valuable and diverse points. It is possible that a number of friends do not agree with part of these statements, but bringing up these issues in this meeting was definitely valuable because they open my mind and the minds of officials. They draw our attention to the different aspects of academic issues more than before.

One of these issues is that when we want to speak about the current needs of our academic community and the requirements of knowledge, we can adopt two outlooks and speak in two different ways. One way is to speak in an encouraging and stimulating way and another way is to speak in a discouraging and disappointing way. I request that wherever they are - in the classroom, in scientific meetings and in meetings where they deliver a report - the honorable professors and officials in charge of universities use the first way, not the second way.

According to the statistics that I have received, we have the fastest rate of progress in the world during the recent years. I have not studied this matter recently, but I saw these statistics about one- and- a- half months ago. They are exact and accurate statistics. We have the fastest rate of scientific progress at an international - not regional - level. However, what is available to us in the present time and the position which we are in now is not very satisfactory. These two realities should be seen together. Both these two realities are true: in the present time, we have many shortcomings. Our position is not one that can satisfy us as Iranians and Muslims and as people who have lofty outlooks towards distant horizons. At the same time, the movement that we have carried out has been a very good and rapid movement. We should not allow this rate of progress to slow down. On the contrary, we should expedite it.

About a year- and- a- half ago, I said to a scientific group - they were like you: young and competent students - "My expectation is that in 50 years - I do not say, in 10, 15 years - we will become first in the world in the area of science". That is to say, it will be we who determine the borders of science. We should reach a position where our language - the Persian language - will become the language of science in the world. This is the horizon which is in front of my eyes. In order to reach this position, we should first believe that this is possible. If you who are university professors, the gentleman who is a student and the third person who is a manager in charge of affairs do not believe that this is possible, then you should be sure that we will definitely not reach it. We should believe in it.

What I want to say is that the ground is prepared for this belief. First of all, the talent of us Iranians has been proved in scientific areas. This has been researched into and examined in different ways. In my opinion, this is definite. In the most advanced universities, the average of Iranians' talents is higher than that of other people. That is to say, the Iranians' talent is higher than the global average.

Second, the natural resources of the country indicate that the ground is prepared. We are located in a good place in the world. We have a large population and we enjoy a good geographical location. Considering the ratio of our population and our geographical location to that of the whole world, we have many resources and we are not a poor country. Once - in a public meeting - I pointed to the statistics in this regard and it was broadcast on TV. So, I do not want to repeat them. Approximately, we have one percent of the entire population of the world and one percent of the area of the entire earth. This is while our resources in the area of the most important elements of building civilizations - that is to say, steel, copper and a number of other elements - are more than one percent. It is three, four, five percent. When we reach oil and gas, we suddenly witness a dramatic growth. There are human and natural talents and experience in our country. If we take a look, we see that whenever we made efforts, worked hard and paid attention, we moved forward.

Mr. Marandi referred to our pains, problems and concerns during the first three, four years of the Revolution in the area of shortage of physicians, university professors and educational facilities and resources at universities and schools. It is a long story what happened to us in those days as a result of these shortcomings. For a heart surgery, people needed to wait for seven, eight years in this country. If someone wanted to undergo heart surgery, have an operation on their heart valves, undergo a vascular transplant or other such treatments, they had to wait for eight years. This dates back to 20 years ago and many people used to die. Today, when we take a look at the past, we see that the movement of the country in these areas is incredible. The movement has been very good. We worked hard and we are witnessing the results.

Take a look at Royan Institute - on which Mr. Gurani delivered a report - and the story of stem cells. The people working there managed to develop this technology with few resources at their disposal. There was a congress two years ago and scientists from throughout the world participated in it. When they were interviewed, they expressed surprise at our achievement in this area. These are events which should be in front of our eyes as sources of pride.

We have personalities such as the late Dr. Kazemi Ashtiani. I deem it necessary to mention the name of this young, enthusiastic, religious and knowledgeable person and this really revolutionary and pious manager. In the present time, there are many such people in the country. They are working in different sectors and good tasks have been carried out by them. The condition of our universities is not comparable with 20, 25 years ago. Our achievements are very good.

Let us speak about the statistics which, as I said, require analysis and about what Dr. Malekzadeh said. Notice that not all standards and criteria for the ranking of a certain university are based on scientific standards. Sometimes, there is a standard which you do not agree with at all. I do not want to say which standards. I myself have seen the standards and criteria for the ranking of a university in international statistics. You do not accept some of these standards. If these standards had been implemented during the ministry of Dr. Malekzadeh, Dr. Marandi, Dr. Fazel and other ministers, these ministers would not have agreed with them because of our Islamic and Iranian culture. Of course, some of these standards are based on scientific factors.

There is no doubt that we are in the beginning of the path. As I said in the beginning of my speech, we are just taking the primary steps. We should take these steps in a constant and permanent way. We should move forward and believe that we can. This is what I want to say. With this belief and by acknowledging the capabilities of our religious youth and the achievements that they have made, you should count shortcomings one by one. There is nothing wrong with this. This will encourage us to decrease shortcomings and to move forward on a daily basis. Besides, the youth who hear these shortcomings from you will be encouraged to move forward and their enthusiasm and hope for making progress will increase in their heart. This does not mean that we should adopt a negative and discouraging outlook. I do not believe in this outlook.

I would like to raise the second point which I think is the most fundamental one. You gentlemen and ladies who are present in this meeting are a sample of the university professors of the country. Primarily, what our professors should try to do in order to help science make progress is to show scientific courage in all areas - including humanities and experimental, technological and fundamental sciences. They should pursue, produce, innovate and criticize theories. They should not pursue things in a blind and imitative way.

Our problem in the past was that we pursued things in a blind and imitative way in all scientific areas. We always looked at westerners to see what they say. It is true that westerners were ahead of us in scientific arenas for at least two, two-and-a half centuries. It is true that they made very astonishing and unbelievable achievements. There is no doubt about this. Despite all of our past glories, we remained backward because of laziness and wrong policies. There is no doubt about this either. But as I said before, we do not think it is beneath our dignity to learn from the people who are knowledgeable. However, we should not think that we should remain students forever.

The meaning of adopting an imitative outlook is that we should remain students forever. Innovation is necessary. Personal and national self-confidence is a necessity for our professors. First, our university professors should be self-confident and they should carry out scientific work. They should rely on and feel proud of their scientific work. Second, they should enjoy national self-confidence. They should believe in the capabilities of our people. If such factors exist in university professors, then this will be transferred to their classrooms and students and it will exert its educational influence.

Third, our university professors should be diligent. We received some blows because of our laziness and idleness in different areas and at different levels. We should work hard and we should not get tired of working hard. Therefore, innovation and creativity, scientific courage, personal and national self-confidence and hard work are the cures for our scientific progress. These statements are addressed to university professors.

The third point is that - this is perhaps a continuation of the previous point - it is several years now I have been bringing up and stressing the issue of knowledge production, scientific movement and crossing scientific borders. Fortunately today, this has turned into a public request in academic and scientific environments. We see that this request is being repeated by students and university professors over and over again. We are proud of the achievements that we have made in different scientific and technological areas. Many of these achievements are visible and they have appeared in different promotions - such as issues related to the nuclear energy and the like - and many of them have not appeared in our promotions. They are really half-finished tasks which are being completed in the present time. We have many such tasks. As I said, we have adopted an optimistic outlook towards the issue of "we can".

However, we should point out that the issue of making scientific breakthroughs and crossing scientific borders has not become serious in our country yet. We want our scholars and scientists to find short cuts. Humanity should discover, one after the other, the undiscovered and infinite paths which exist in the universe. We want to discover the paths which have not been discovered yet.

The fact that we have managed to build certain tools - such as a centrifuge which was built and utilized by other peoples many years ago - is a great achievement. We have managed to do this on our own. This has been achieved by our young generation. There is no doubt about this. But this is not an innovative achievement. This is a path which has already been taken by others. What I am saying is that you should focus your efforts on carrying out those scientific and technological tasks which have not been carried out yet. You should pursue such tasks.

This is how we can cross the borders of knowledge and take a step forward. We can make this claim only when we engage in innovation and this is possible. Of course, taking new steps requires taking the paths which have already been taken by other people. There is no doubt about this, but we should never prevent our minds from searching for short cuts because we need this in the country.

One point which was also reflected in the statements of some of the friends in this meeting - they pointed it out and I myself had written it down to highlight it - is that we should carry out purposeful research in the country by paying attention to our needs. Without a doubt, research should receive more attention. We should see what the country really needs and then we should carry out research by paying attention to the needs of the country. Some of the friends in the meeting pointed this out in their statements which is completely correct. And this requires that we have a central bank of information so that everyone can know what is necessary, what has been done and what is necessary for completing research. This will help the different components of research to converge.

Another point which is related to this one - this was another point which was discussed by some of the friends and which I had written down - is that we should bring into line the system of awarding scientific points at universities with these needs. Publishing an article in an ISI journal or the number of these articles is not enough. That is to say, in order to improve their ranks and positions, our researchers should not write an article which is of no use for the country and which does not fill any research gap in the country. It may be useful for the person who publishes it in his journal or for other people and organizations, but it is not valuable for the country. Some university professors do this only for improving their scientific rank. This system should change because it is not correct.

The system of awarding scientific points and the regulations in this regard should be compatible with this matter. We should see which research is compatible with the needs of the country and which research completes a chain of research. Sometimes, we have a chain in certain areas and some links in the middle of this chain are missing. Finding these links is very important. Therefore, carrying out purposeful research should be done by paying attention to the needs of the country and the needs of industry and other vital sectors of the country.

Another issue is the religious education of students. Fortunately today, we have many religious and pure professors who enjoy deep religious roots and national self-confidence at the universities of the country. These universities professors have been built during the revolutionary era. Fortunately, with their great scientific competence, they are rendering services at universities and everywhere else. This is a source of satisfaction and pride.

The religious education of students should be one of the goals of all the university professors of the country. Students should be taught to be religious and to enjoy national beliefs - which is the same national self-confidence which I spoke about. I have heard that the opposite is being done in some universities and some classrooms. A certain university professor speaks about the country in a way that students hate the fact that they are Iranian. This is not fair and it is against the interests of youth and the young generation of the country.

Youth should be taught to be committed to their national identity and their national beliefs in a way that they feel proud of being an Iranian. This is because it is really a source of pride to be an Iranian. One should really be proud of being from Iran, which is the dearest country in the world of Islam because of its political and international positions. If you go to any country in the world of Islam, you will see that the Islamic Republic and the people of Iran are the dearest people in the eyes of nations. Everywhere is the same, ranging from the east and the west of the world of Islam to the entire Asia and Africa.

So, why should Iranian youth not be happy about their position, their cultural and historical legacies and achievements, and the human and natural talents of the country? Why should we disappoint them? Such cases are sometimes witnessed. The dear brothers and sisters who are present in this meeting and all other university professors should consider this to be one of their responsibilities. Reviving and cultivating the Islamic, religious and Iranian identity of our youth is one of our most important issues which is of great help to the progress of the country.

Our time is up. I am very satisfied with today's meeting. I sincerely thank the friends who helped us benefit from this meeting, whether you brothers and sisters who participated in it, the people who delivered a speech or the friends who managed the meeting. I hope that throughout this year - particularly in this month - God bestows His blessings and mercy on you dear brothers and sisters and on the scientific and academic environment of the country.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings