The Israeli Council for Higher Education on Monday presented the Knesset's Education, Culture and Sports Committee with disconcerting data as to the state of Israeli academia.
According to Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, head of the Council's planning and budgetary committee, some 25% of Israel's academicians choose to live overseas.
Trajtenberg told the committee that Israel has inadvertently become the world's largest "minds exporter".
"We have about 4,000 senior staffers and scientists working for various universities and about 1,000 more are currently living abroad – more than any other country," he said.
He further presented the committee with OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) data, suggesting that, for the sake of comparison, Canada's "mind exports" amounts to 12.2% of its academic staff, the Netherlands and Italy's "exports" were around 4% and rounding up the list was Spain, where only 1.3% of academics choose to live overseas.
Additional ICHE data indicated that Israel's academicians are getting older: Some 48.3% of senior staffers in Israeli universities are over the age of 55.
Following Israel is the US, where 32.2% of senior faculty staff are in their mid-to-late 50s, Australia (24.9%) and the UK (16.9%).
"We are witnessing a process of (academic) fading, which is manifesting itself in brain drain, older faculty members, an increase in student-lecturer ratio and an overall decline in the academia's public statue."
If the situation continues, warned Trajtenberg, "Israel will not be able to manufacture the scientific research and progress it needs. We must allow younger personnel in the academia."
But not all is lost: Israel, he said, is ranked fifth in the world when it comes to winning science Nobel prizes in the past decade, a significant feat considering its size.
The US has won the most Nobel prizes in the last decade (53), followed by the UK (nine) and Germany and Japan (six).