Abadan Institute of Technology (AIT)


LocationThe Abadan Institute of Technology (AIT) was located in the City of Abadan, Province of Khuzistan in southwest of Iran. AIT was a school of engineering dedicated to training engineers and managers for Iran’s oil industry.  The Institute was funded by the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).  Since 1980, there have been considerable changes in the educational content and management of AIT.  Today, AIT has been expanded to Petroleum University of Technology (PUT). That university includes several colleges (faculties), one of which trains petroleum engineers.


Admissions and Academic Status


Educational Programs

Student Life

Faculty and Administrative Staff

Accomplishments of AIT Graduates

AIT 1960's _ Provided by Joy Ellen Martin
AIT 1960’s – Provided by Joy Ellen Martin

Admissions and Entrance Requirements:

AIT was extremely selective in admitting students. Students were selected through an extensive selection process consisting of applicants’ grade point average in high school, score on a rigorous entrance exam, and after a face-to-face interview. About 1 percent of the applicants made it to AIT. Of the few who got admitted, many did not make it to the senior year. For example, from the 78 admitted in 1956, only 39 graduated in 1962. This was due to high academic requirements. AIT was the only institute of higher learning in Iran strictly dedicated to training engineers and managers for the oil industry.

The Abadan Institute of Technology in its original form was first established in 1939 under the name “Abadan Technical School”. In a clause of Anglo – Iranian Oil Company’s (AIOC) contract, the establishment of a technical school was planned for the purpose of training skilled Iranian technical staff for Iran’s oil industry in Abadan. The Iranian high school graduates were employed as oil company employees who took a 4- year sandwich course, studying and working in the Abadan Refinery in alternate 4-month terms. Upon successful graduation they were awarded a technical diploma equivalent to a B.Sc. in engineering. Upon graduation, the graduates started working as senior staff in the Abadan refinery or in the oil fields. The founder and first president of the school was the late Dr. Reza Fallah. The curriculum and management of the school was more or less British in nature. In 1956, a few years after the nationalization of Iran’s oil industry, Dr. Manouchehr Eghbal, a high-ranking official of the government of Iran contacted several universities in USA for the purpose of creating an up-to-date educational program. The Lafayette College of Easton, Pennsylvania was selected. Dean Hutchison and Dr. Walter Groves from Lafayette College had previous educational experience in Iran. Both of these educators had previously spent decades of their youth teaching at the Alborz College in Iran. The program of study in the period between 1956 through 1967 was modeled after Lafayette College, with a blend of Persian culture. The majority of the faculty came from Lafayette College, with a few coming from well-known European Universities, as well as from Iran’s best trained academicians. Textbooks and laboratory equipment also was imported from USA and Europe.

Educational Programs

General Engineering – The first educational program established by Lafayette College was a six-year General Engineering program, the first two years of which was in Pre-engineering, with the last four years being a full engineering program leading to a bachelor’s degree.

The first two years were equivalent to 11th and 12th grades of high school, with more emphasis on mathematics, sciences, and general studies including Persian literature. The 4-year general engineering program was a rigorous program in engineering fundamentals in such fields as chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering. Examples of course were strength of materials, heat transfer, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, numerical analysis, mechanics of engineering, metallurgy, stoichiometry, process engineering, and all preparatory basic sciences. The educational program also included courses in general studies and humanities to give better “polish” to the quality of the graduating engineers and managers. Examples were course in Social Psychology, Advanced English Literature, Persian Literature, and History of Civilization. In the last year of education (senior year), the students were allowed to select an area of emphasis in engineering. Elective courses were offered in chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, and process engineering.

In addition to formal classroom training, students were required to complete four summer jobs with the oil industry or other industries in Iran.

The last group of General Engineering students graduated in 1966.

Office Training Course – In addition to bachelor degree programs, lower-level programs of training were offered to meet varying needs of the oil industry. These were similar to certificate programs offered by universities in USA or Europe. One of these programs was a one-year course started in 1959 for the purpose of training clerical staff for Iran’s oil industry. Students in this program were taught courses in English language, secretarial training, shorthand and typing, and general office skills. This program was abandoned after several years.

Petroleum Engineering – After several terms of General Engineering, some of the British advisors of the Oil Companies operating in Iran proposed a new educational program for AIT. The new program consisted of a 4-year program. The applicants were required to have a high school diploma. Selection process was highly competitive, as described above.

The students took two full-year sessions, followed by a year of obtaining on-the-job field training at the oil industry. An additional year of classroom training followed the field training. Graduating students could graduate with specialties in the fields of Drilling, Refinery, and Process Engineering.

In 1970 there was a major change in the engineering curriculum offered at AIT. Additional areas of engineering were offered in Reservoir Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Civil Engineering. The degrees awarded had the actual title of the discipline of study.

These changes were predicated on the current needs of the oil industry and technological advancements.

Business Administration – AIT’s programs of study were periodically re-evaluated based on the needs of the oil industry. In 1963, AIT commenced a new academic program directed at training non-technical managers for the industry. The new program consisted of a 4-year program. The applicants were required to have a high school diploma. Selection process was highly competitive, as described above for other programs of study.

The students took two full-year sessions, followed by a year of obtaining on-the-job field training at the oil industry. An additional year of classroom training followed the field training. Graduating students could graduate with specialties in the fields of accounting, business management, and personnel. This program was discontinued after a few years when the needs of the oil industry were satisfied.

Student Life

Housing – AIT students came from across the country and needed living accommodations for the duration of their studies. AIT had modern living facilities on campus for all its students. These dormitories consisted of several building blocks, each with rooms of various sizes. Most rooms were large enough to house 4 students with bunk bed sleeping arrangements. There were also a number of smaller rooms adequate for 3 or 2 students, The furniture in each room was basic and consisted of desks, chairs, and closets for each student. Modern sanitary facilities were located at key locations in each block.

The dormitory also had a restaurant and a large kitchen equipped with modern cooking facilities. Professional cooking staff prepared three full meals a day, with an afternoon tea snack served late in the afternoon. The meals were nutritionally well balanced and prepared under sanitary conditions.

Food was served by student workers. Student workers also washed the dishes, cleaned the tables, prepared and washed vegetables. Cleaning personnel cleaned student rooms, the sanitary facilities and the dormitory general compound.

The dormitory also had faculty housing in each building. These were furnished apartments suitable for faculty members and their spouses. The presence of the faculty in the dormitory had several advantages both for the students and the faculty. The faculty took turns as proctors in the evening checking the pre-engineering students (17 to 18 year-old boys) and helping them with their schoolwork. Also, the faculty was available in case any student had a special need. This interaction with the students was beneficial to the faculty, who came from USA or Europe, to better understand the local culture and to narrow the cultural gap.

A physician visited the dormitory 3 times a week and students needing medical attention visited the physician. The physician was also available at his off-campus clinic for students who needed medical attention at other times. Medicine was provided to the students free of charge. The Oil Company hospital was available for more extensive medical attention.

All of the above-referenced living accommodations and services were provided to the students at no cost to the students. This allowed the students to focus on their studies and not to be sidetracked on living issues.

Extra Curricular Activities – AIT education placed a high importance on student activities outside of the classroom. These activities were considered important because they helped students build character, social responsibility, interaction on non-technical matters, and leadership.

The students had a Student Council that had a strong voice in governing student affairs on campus. Each class had a representative in the Council. A president was voted in to serve for the academic year.

The student council had committees that administered student affairs. Examples were:

The Dormitory Committee – Overseeing the cleaning and maintenance of the dormitory
 Food Committee – Overseeing the choice of restaurant menus
 Job Committee – Providing input on allocation of part-time jobs to students
 Entertainment Committee – Planning skit nites
Discipline Committee – Setting regulations for sleep time and noise control
The students belonged to one of the four teams on campus, representing the 4 living blocks in the dormitory as listed below:
 Cyrus – Dariush – Rustam – Nader
These teams were like social organizations providing the opportunity in athletic competitions as well as other social activities.
There were various social organizations, or clubs, on the campus for students to develop social skills outside of the classroom.

Examples of the organizations are:
Dramatics club, Stamp Club, AIT Post (publishing a bi-weekly news publication), Arts Club, Glee Club (choir group), Music Band, Reading Club (Reviewing books from well-known authors)

Graduates of AIT were prepared for social responsibility, in addition to professional skills. Since their graduation, most AIT graduates have become leaders in their communities in Iran and elsewhere in the world.
Faculty and Administrative Staff

The faculty of AIT was selected from the graduates of well-known universities in USA, United Kingdom, Holland, Germany, and Iran. The administrative staff was mostly Iranian nationals familiar with the local administrative procedures and regulations.
The international educational environment provided a forum for cultural exchange between the international faculty and Iranian students. This experience added an important social value to the AIT graduates. Most AIT graduates have been able to work under varied cultural environments with total success.

The following is a partial list of AIT faculty and administrative staff from 1956 through 1968:

Dr. Walter A. Groves (Lafayette College) – President
 Dr. Robert Crosen (Lafayette College) – Chemistry and Dean of Faculty
 Dr. Julian Ripley (Lafayette College) – Physics
 Dr. Charles Pelfrey – English
 Dr. Zanen (Delft University, Holland) – Civil Engineering
 Mr. Jack Telfer (Lafayette College) – Engineering Graphics
 Mr. Arthur Trubiano (Lafayette College) – Engineering Graphics
 Mr. Douglas Thompson (Lafayette College) – Engineering Graphics
 Mr. T. G. Schwartz – Electrical Engineering
 Dr. Jalal Matini – Persian Literature
 Mr. Azadi – Chemistry
 Mr. Salehi – Mathematics
 Dr. Green – Chemical Engineering
 Mr. Raymond Jacoby (Lafayette College) – Humanities
 Mr. Stanley Wilson – Physical Education and Athletic Coach
 Mr. Soudagar – Psychology (American University of Beirut)
 Dr. Lowe (Brigham Young University) – Business Administration
 Mr. Jahanbani – Various Engineering Courses
 Dr. Pope (Brigham Young University) – Chemical Engineering
 Dr. Honari – Chemical Engineering
 Mr. Longman (London University) – Civil Engineering
 Dr. Rajdan Babayan – Thermodynamics and Process Engineering
 Dr. Jaffar Amirbayat – Mechanical Engineering
 Dr. Ali Mahdaviani – Fluid Mechanics and Hydraulics
 Dr. Kormi – President
 Dr. Haghjoo – President
 Mr. Haghshenas – President
 Mr. Zarafshan – Administrator
 Mr. Majed – Registrar and Administrator
 Captain Davis (Lafayette College and US Navy) – Engineering Mechanics
 Mr. Match – English
 Mrs. Telfer (Lafayette College) – English
 Mr. Peter Wendell (Lafayette College) – English
 Mr. William Kirby (Lafayette College) – English
 William Haller (Lafayette College) – English and Public Speaking
 Dr. Mojallali – Mathematics
 Dr. Zandi – Civil Engineering
 Mr. Ghahremanian – Mathematics
 Dean Frank Hunt (Lafayette College) – Dean of Students
 Mr. Sohrab Doustdar – Humanities
 Mr. Quentin Gerber – Business Administration
 Mr. Weber – Business Administration
 Dr, Mahmoudi (Harvard University) – Mathematics
 Dr. Vessal – Mathematics
 Dr. Hubig (Germany) – Mathematics and Physics
 Dr. Smith – Mathematics and Physics
The above is only a partial list of the outstanding faculty serving at AIT from 1956 through 1968. Other highly qualified faculty and staff have served AIT in different times, but the information on them is not currently available.

Accomplishments of AIT Graduates

Most AIT graduates started their careers by working for the oil industry or other industries in Iran. However, to many of them that was only a starting point. Many went abroad to extend their education in well-known universities in USA and Europe.
A large number obtained their doctoral degree (Phd or Doctor of Engineering) and took teaching and research positions at well-known universities in USA, Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East, and Australia. Others went as far as Masters Degree in well-known universities and went back to working in the industry in various countries around the globe and Iran.
AIT graduates have been serving various industries in USA, England, Germany, Switzerland, North Africa, China, Saudi Arabia, Indian subcontinent, and South America. In most cases, AIT graduates have held positions such as Senior Project Managers, Senior Engineers, Company Executives, Senior Administrators, and specialists in various fields. AIT graduates have served the private industry as well as various governments, and the United Nations.

Dr. Walter Groves, the President of AIT from 1956 through 1962, named AIT “the Great Small College.” Over the decades, AIT graduates have proven this title to be very appropriate.

To honor Dr. Groves for many years of hard work to promote higher education in Iran, The AIT Alumni, USA has devised a Scholarship awarded to an Iranian graduate in the field of Petroleum Engineering. This scholarship is awarded every year in May.


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