Mansour Gholami said on Monday that the figure excluded those studying medical sciences and those admitted to seminaries for religious studies.
The minister told the IRIB news that state-funding for foreign students has mostly covered nationals from politically-allied countries and neighbors, saying many international students have paid full tuition and other fees to study in Iran, including a “considerable number” of people who were studying Persian language and literature.
Gholami said students from China, Iraq and Central Asia countries topped the list of foreigners in Iranian universities in terms of population, adding that computer sciences, law, social sciences, humanities and religious studies were among the most popular fields of study for foreigners.
He said there has been a growing number of enrollments in basic research courses in Iranian universities, saying foreigners have become more inclined to study agriculture and engineering over the past years.
The minister said Iran was planning to attract more students, especially from the Middle East, to both strengthen funding resources for Iranian universities and help expand scientific interaction with countries of the region.
Iran has some of the oldest and finest universities in West Asia region, helping it to attract a growing number of foreigners over the years.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization reported a global high for growth in the enrollments of international students in Iran, saying the number of such students in the country increased by at least by 330.6 percent between 2011 and 2016.
A senior sciences ministry official said at the beginning of Iran’s academic year in October that some 55,000 foreigners were studying in the country at the time.