Decision not to upgrade Ariel college sparks outrage and relief (ISRAEL HAYOM) Yael Branovsky and Nitzi Yakov 07/06/12)
Israel Hayom Articles-Index-Top
Education minister says decision to deny Ariel college university
status could be overturned • Faculty members lament possible brain
drain and reduced enrollment in light of decision • University
presidents welcome decision, saying comprehensive review of higher
education is in order.
"When I submit my recommendations to the Council for Higher
Education, I will ask it to grant the Ariel University Center of
Samaria the status of a university," Education Minister Gideon Sa´ar
said Thursday, in response to the decision by the council´s Planning
and Budgeting Committee not to allow the center to become Israel´s
eighth recognized university.
“The council´s monitoring committee has determined that the center
successfully met all the benchmarks it was told to meet for the
provisional period during which it functioned as a university center
and has even exceeded expectations; the finance minister is willing
to approve a supplemental higher education budget to attain this
goal," Sa’ar said. "Israel can have eight universities; the number
seven is not holy."
Sa´ar has previously said he supports accrediting the college as a
university on condition that it meet academic standards and that the
move not entail budget cuts to the other universities in Israel.
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat also voiced her support for
upgrading the center Thursday. "The center met all the necessary
criteria; it was denied university status for unprofessional, or even
political, reasons. But just as we dedicated the auditorium for
cultural events in Ariel, so too will we dedicate the university in
Ariel," Livnat said.
The committee´s decision followed a comprehensive review of the
higher education system in Israel. In the final vote, five members
voted not to change Ariel´s status, with one opposing the decision
and one abstaining. Following the decision, the committee released a
statement saying: "[We] recommend having the institution keep its
current status as a university center for the time being."
Thursday´s decision comes amid a heated debate over whether Israel
should have another university and just over two years after Defense
Minister Ehud Barak approved in principle the institution´s request
to be recognized as a university. Since Ariel lies in Judea and
Samaria, the Defense Ministry is in charge of education there.
Last week, the Committee of University Heads sent a letter to Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sa´ar, warning against the
ramifications of having the center become a university. In the
letter, they expressed concern that the budget for the new university
would come at the expense of their institutions, and said Israel did
not need another university. The university presidents welcomed
Thursday’s decision, releasing a statement saying, "We congratulate
the Planning and Budgeting Committee´s resolution to perform an
extensive review of higher education in Israel.”
The center is mostly funded by various government ministries, with
the Defense Ministry and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry
funding most of the research there. While researchers at the
institution plan to resume their normal activities in the wake of the
decision, some have expressed their concern. Dr. Boaz Ben-Moshe and
Dr. Nir Shvalb, who run a robotics lab in the center, said that if it
was not recognized as a university many faculty members and students
Ariel center President Professor Dan Meyerstein attacked the
decision, saying politics played a role. "There were two arguments
made against the recognition. The first one was political and the
second was economic, and both were flawed," he said Thursday. "The
Budget and Planning Committee told me that even if we give up our
dream of becoming a university we would still receive the funding
that we had been promised, which comprises about 2 percent of the
funds the committee manages."
Meyerstein further said that the institution´s budget woould increase
by NIS 330 million ($83.9 million) over the next four years, and the
Council for Higher Education was expected to recognize the six new
programs the center would like to introduce as part of the B.Sc. in
engineering it offers.
A statement issued by the Council for Higher Education said
the "budgetary framework that was been proposed during the
negotiations was tailored according to the criteria that apply
equally across the board to all academic institutions when it comes
to budgeting by the Finance Ministry. However the center´s executive
committee rejected the understandings and agreements struck by the
parties; the Planning and Budgeting Committee´s decision from
Wednesday is consistent with the proposed framework."
The committee’s decision could be overturned by the Judea and Samaria
Council for Higher Education, which reports to the GOC Central
Command, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon. Even if Alon and the council were to
decide to recognize Ariel as an university, it is the Planning and
Budgeting Committee that decides whether or not to grant Ariel
funding, an option it has already voted against.
The Ariel University Center of Samaria issued a statement after the
committee’s decision, saying, "The Planning and Budgeting Committee
is at the service of the old hegemony, which is ruled by a cartel
made up of the heads of the seven current universities who serve
their own narrow interests."
"If [Ariel] were an Arab university, it would have received official
approval a long time ago," Samaria Regional Council head Gershon
Mesika said Wednesday. Professor Amos Altshuler, a member of the
Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education, acknowledged the
conflicting powers at work. "We must take into consideration the
position of the Planning and Budgeting Committee, while at the same
time understanding that the law authorizes the GOC Central Command to
make the final decision."
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY