Export controls and educational information

Each of the export control regimes provides for university education to be conducted outside the scope of their control, although each takes a slightly different approach. Material released in catalog-listed courses is considered publicly available, and therefore excluded from U.S. export controls, by delivery in instruction at universities in the U.S. or abroad, except for:

  • Encryption (EAR)
  • Principles not commonly taught (ITAR)
  • Sensitive nuclear technology (DoE)

The practical effect is that most university courses are clearly excluded from export controls, enabling participation by international students and faculty. To be sure that a course dealing with advanced or sensitive technology qualifies for the educational exclusion, first determine which export control regime has jurisdiction over the course's technology, and then apply the criteria for that regime.

The EAR provide that educational information released by instruction in catalog courses and associated teaching laboratories of academic institutions (except for certain encryption technology) is not subject to the EAR. This exclusion is broad and relatively unambiguous (except for encryption technology, which is complicated).

The ITAR provide that information concerning general scientific, mathematical or engineering principles commonly taught in schools, colleges and universities, is not included in the definition of technical data subject to the ITAR. The references to specific academic fields, use of "principles" rather than "information," and inclusion of undefined terms such as "general" and "commonly taught" makes the ITAR definition potentially narrower and more subject to differing interpretations than the EAR. Even though course material is excluded from export controls, follow-up discussions may lead to the provision of "defense services," which are subject to control. Courses with unusual content should be evaluated for compliance.

The Department of Energy Assistance to Foreign Atomic Energy Activities regulations consider information available in public libraries, public reading rooms, public archives, public data banks, or in university courses to be public information and not subject to its controls. An important exception is "sensitive nuclear technology" defined as information (including tangible items and services) not available to the public which is important to the design, construction, fabrication, operation, or maintenance of a uranium enrichment or nuclear fuel reprocessing facility or a facility for the production of heavy water. As with the ITAR, follow-up discussions of material presented in courses may lead beyond public information into practical implementation, which requires specific authorization.

Education in the United States is generally not affected by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control's (OFAC) sanctions programs, with the exception of online education. However, current regulations require the State Department to deny a visa to citizens of Iran seeking to study in preparation for a career in the Iran energy sector, or in nuclear science or engineering in Iran.

If you have questions, please contact Michele Dondanville, Export Control Officer, at (775) 784-6360 or mdondanville@unr.edu.