Islamic Azad University, Ardabil Branch (IAU-A) was established in 1983 following the sweeping move in 1982 by a group of intellectuals to expand higher education all over Iran. Initially no more than a few hundreds of students were admitted to this branch to study in a few disciplines mostly in rented and underequipped buildings. The majority of the academic staff was also retired teachers of Ardabil or visiting professors who came from Tabriz or Tehran. The change, however, was dramatic and the reaction of the people was so favorable that the size of the branch and the intake of students multiplied manifolds in less than a decade.

Following this rapid growth and the propitious outlook, IAU-A started employing full-time professors and granted scholarships to PhD students not only to complete its faculty members but also broaden its coverage to include other disciplines. At the same time the branch continued to use visiting and adjunct professors to meet the educational needs of its students. While emphasizing the employment of highly qualified academic staff and offering qualitative courses, the university did not forget expanding its infrastructure and constructing environments conducive to learning. To this end, big pieces of land were bought in upscale areas of the city and, along with the classrooms, different spaces including science and computer labs, libraries, conference halls, dormitories, and sport facilities were constructed.

Pedagogical life of every university is affected by its ambience. Spacious green compounds and large classes are among the facilities that make students feel comfortable. Student unions, as well, provide them with suitable places to socialize, explore their talents, and give voice to their ideas by publishing periodicals and holding conferences. For these reasons, previous university authorities invested considerable effort to provide for these basic needs and created friendly environments in which students could flourish.

Although authorities’ efforts in the past deserve a lot of credit, there has always been a feeling that IAU-A is still far away from standards and its influence is not significant. This feeling has given current officials the added impetus that they have to work even harder, because they believe that standards are not out of their reach. This line of thinking has made these officials undertake some bone-shaking transformations in recent months which among many things include an ongoing review of the policies and regulations of the university, launching its new website and activating the Office of International Affairs.

Today, past services are still in place and attempts have been made to make them even more adequate. At the same time, new avenues have been opened up to the students. For example, free internet services are currently available everywhere in the university and faculty members are obliged to allocate contact hours for the students who are in need of their help. Access to different data bases has become possible and programs for student and professor swaps with overseas universities and sabbatical programs are seriously under consideration. Off campus services like field trips, swimming programs and visiting prominent historical sites likewise are scheduled for interested students.

Currently IAU-A is preparing itself to offer one of the best possible choices to the university-bound students in Iran. Different programs at all levels are under implementation to enhance the quality of education and access to cutting-edge technology. Consulting students in education-related matters and using the faculty members’ insightful views constitute a main part of the new approach adopted by the presiding board to make the students realize their maximum potential. Efforts in the past and all heightened recent efforts are nothing but to serve the noble cause of Iranian youth with the best higher education possible. Members of the presiding board are sure that this objective is achievable and they are striving tirelessly toward it with absolute determination.

The rector of the university would like to use this opportunity to welcome all incoming students and assure them that fulfilling their academic needs and ambitions will be the highest priority of the university's governing body, especially the rector, deputies, deans, and executive heads of the faculties. Knowing the importance of educational standards, and recognizing the sensitivity of scholarly activity, IAU-A's governing body knows itself committed to excellence and has decided to do whatever in its power to make this branch stand out among the branches of IAU in Iran.