The son of the former President of Iran is being investigated by the university following a complaint which alleges that his doctoral thesis proposal had been written by someone else.

Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, the son of Akbar Rafsanjani, who was Iran\’s President between 1989 and 1997, began a five year DPhil course on the Iranian constitution at the faculty of Oriental Studies in October.

A complaint from a leading academic concerned that the university\’s high academic standards had been ignored when admitting Hashemi has triggered a full investigation led by Sir Peter North QC, a former Vice-Chancellor of the university.

If the allegations are substantiated and it is proven that Hashemi did not write his own thesis proposal he may be asked to leave. 

Kaveh Moussavi, an Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, told Cherwell that he believed Hashemi had broken the university’s rules in making his application.

According to Moussavi, Hashemi\’s English is not of the required standard to study in the UK but he was given special dispensation by the Oriental Institute. Moussavi also claims that Hashemi does not live within the required 12.5 mile radius of Carfax as stipulated by the university, but currently resides in Dubai.

Moussavi further alleges that Hashemi’s ‘proposal was written by a graduate student of the same faculty who was paid to do this.’

Moussavi continued, \’To the lasting credit of Oxford University they have immediately appointed a leading counsel in Sir Peter North QC to conduct the investigation. I have every confidence that there will be a thorough investigation, and I have no doubt as to where it will lead.’

When contacted by Cherwell Hashemi said,’ [I] categorically deny these allegations.’

He continued, \’My proposal was studied and accepted regardless of my family ties. I do not believe being the son of ex-president has made any difference to my acceptance [at Oxford].\’

The ten week investigation will involve two academics that read and approved a first synopsis of Hashemi\’s thesis proposal in January 2010. Dr Homa Katouzian, an expert in modern Iranian history, strenuously denied that he was influenced by Hashemi\’s background in recommending his proposal.

\’I did not know that Mr Hashemi was Mr Rafsanjani\’s son when I assessed his application, but it would not have made an iota of difference to my academic judgment even if I had known this. The application was a good one and I recommended it to the Graduate Admissions Committee.\’

Katouzian also criticised those making allegations about Hashemi. He believed that \’They should come clean and name the persons they have in mind or they would be guilty of deliberately harming the reputation of our colleagues and students.\’

The University Press Office confirmed that the allegations were received before Christmas and have resulted in a thorough investigation which is ongoing.

Hashemi has declined to comment at length about the allegations levelled against him and is quoted as having directed further enquiries to the University Press Office.

The investigation has come to light amid scrutiny in many UK universities about their links with ruling families and governments in the Middle East. Sir Howard Davies recently stood down as director of the London School of Economics after concerns were raised over apparent closeness to Colonel Gadaffi\’s Libyan regime. It is expected that Oxford will be wary of similar controversy connected to this case.