This paper has been written based on a three month research in Iran starting March 2007, focusing on Ismaili- a minority religious group- women of Tehran, the capital city, and Mashhad, a major Shi’a pilgrimage city in Northeast Iran. It was conducted through a series of questionnaires, conversations and interviews with those women who had not pursued their tertiary education. The research involved 26 in-depth interviews with individuals as well as 266 questionnaires.
It addresses some of the reasons that either discouraged or prevented Iranian Ismaili women from pursuing university education. It gives voice to the respondents who convinced themselves as to why they would/could not pursue their tertiary education. It refers to a wide range of reasons including social, cultural, and economic which varied from one respondent to another. In order to discuss their viewpoint, this paper will divide the interviewees into two main groups. Firstly it will focus on the cohort who was not interested in tertiary education; those who had not even taken part in International University Entrance Exam. It will refer to those who stated that they had made positive choices about not going to universities. It will address their other priorities. From their viewpoint it had been unnecessary to obtain a university degree in order to achieve their goals. Indeed, they argued that by not pursuing tertiary education, they had saved the best four years of their lives. Some had got access to the labour market and were employed in the job they were interested.
Secondly it will concentrate on those interviewees who desired to gain university education, but failed to get admission. It will refer to factors and obstacles which barred them from entering universities, despite their own efforts and enthusiasms and their parents’ commitment and supports. It will argue that International University Entrance Exam’s methods, financial constrains, employment related issues, cultural reasons, lack of confidence, and lack of spouse supports (among some married respondents) were regarded as the main preventable factors towards entering universities.