Iran has lived under Western sanctions for years, but after Mr Ahmadinejad restarted the country's nuclear programme, the international community ramped up the sanctions, imposing new rounds of restrictions every year since 2006.
In July 2012, the EU banned the import, purchase and transport of Iranian crude oil, which until then accounted for about 20% of Iran's oil exports. The sanctions cut Iran's oil exports to their lowest level since 1986 - during the Iran-Iraq war - and the Iranian rial also fell to a record low against the US dollar.
In 2012, the IMF said the Iranian economy had gone into recession for the first time in two decades.
But it is not just sanctions that are hurting the Iranian people. The president's subsidy reform plan, introduced in December 2010, has also affected the economy.
The reforms were aimed at easing pressure on state finances by cutting tens of billions of dollars from government subsidies on food and fuel, while offsetting the impact on Iran's poorer citizens by giving them monthly cash payments, so they could spend more.
But the policy helped drive up food and energy prices. As a result of increased fuel costs, products became more expensive, which reduced demand, and some firms had to lay off workers and cancel production.
The price of a sangak, Iran's national bread, has risen from a UK equivalent of 6p in 2007 to 11p in 2013. An average family would consume about 42 sangaks per month - so their outlay has risen from £2.52 to £4.62. Meat, rice and milk have also soared in price.
Meanwhile, the national minimum wage has gone down in real terms. In 2010, it was over 300m rials a month, equivalent to $275 (£177.97). High levels of inflation mean the minimum wage is now 487m rials a month, but that is only worth $134 (£87.40).
Car ownership is increasing as more middle-class Iranians buy them as investments, since cash savings have been losing value because of inflation and the currency collapse. However, they are becoming more expensive because they are made with foreign parts which keep on rising in price.
Unemployment has remained above 10% since 1997, but unofficially the rate is thought to be much higher, and the unemployment rate for women is almost double that of the men. Iran has a young population - the mean age of the population was 30 in 2011 - and youth unemployment among those aged 15-29 has remained stubbornly high at above 20% since 2006.
Critics of Mr Ahmadinejad say his populist policies have won him support among the poorer classes, but he has failed to invest in industry. During his time in power, an average of just 14,200 jobs a year have been created, whereas during his predecessor's tenure around 695,400 jobs were being created every year.
An IMF report in 2006 found Iran had the highest rate of brain drain out of 90 countries studied. According to the IMF 150,000 of the best minds were leaving the country every year - and, in 2011, official Iranian statistics said almost 4,300 students were studying abroad.
Iran was one of the first countries in the Middle East to allow women to study at university and since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, it has made big efforts to encourage more girls to enrol in higher education.
Today, enrolment levels for men and women at primary, secondary and tertiary levels are about the same. In fact university applications in 2011 were slightly higher for women than men.
But in September 2012 a number of colleges and universities announced they were closing courses to women. No official reason was given for the decision but critics believe it was an attempt to restrict women's access to education and return them to the home.
It is too soon to know whether these changes have had an impact on the numbers applying.