North Korea’s only private university has asked for tuition from about 10 universities in the United States on subjects such as food security and improving nutrition, reports Reuters.

The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, with a volunteer staff that includes many evangelical Christians and a curriculum that includes subjects once considered taboo in North Korea, such as capitalism, is an “unlikely fit in a country that has been condemned by the US State Department for cracking down on freedom of religion”, says writer Jon Herskovitz. The university trains North Korea’s elite students, and has featured in a BBC Panorama programme after 18 months of negotiation.

North Korea once again tops this year’s World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to be a Christian, produced by Open Doors.

Texas’s A&M University, known for its agricultural economics and public health programmes, is the only American university named.

“For us, it is as much a scholarly engagement as an altruistic engagement,” says Edward Price, director of A&M’s Center on Conflict and Development in the Department of Agricultural Economics.