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February 18, 2015

The UMass Amherst Campus Center. (Lion Hirth/Wikimedia Commons)

Days after announcing it would ban Iranian international students from certain graduate degree courses, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has reversed its policy, saying it will accept them into science and engineering programs.

Citing federal law, UMass Amherst had said its policy was dictated by U.S. sanctions against Iran. Academics, though, argued the policy went way too far and said it would discriminate against Iranians qualified to study in the States.

Mike Malone, chancellor for research and engagement at UMass Amherst, says it’s been a hectic few days.

"We got a lot of comments from the campus community and nationally, frankly, and a lot of them were quite thoughtful and we’re listening to those,” Malone said.

Malone says the university decided to reverse its decision after consulting with the State Department, which issues visas to international students.

"We think we see a less restrictive way going forward looking at each applicant one at a time rather than saying that certain programs are off limits," he said.

Malone says he wants international students on campus to get the educational experience that they’re expecting. The reversal comes as the Obama administration is encouraging more academic partnerships with Iran, and international experts say UMass was exercising extreme caution with anything involving nuclear technology.

global competitiveness, Umass, iran

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