In the past decade, higher education budgets have been slashed considerably. As a result, the quality of the research facilities dropped as more and more brilliant Israeli scientists left the country. To make matters worse, faculties also reduced the number of new recruits.
The tough situation in Israel was not overlooked by leading institutions abroad, which offered the best and the brightest generous scholarships, competitive salaries and advanced research facilities.
Their efforts succeeded, especially in the US, where Israelis make up 24% of foreign academic staff.
According to the Education Ministry, the key is not the salary but rather the research facilities. Many researchers said that they would be willing to return to Israel and even give up better pay out of loyalty to the country and because of home sickness.
They said that they would return to Israel if they were given proper research facilities and labs, and of course, a job.
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar and Chairman of the Higher Education Council's Planning and Budgeting Committee Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, have decided to establish 30 academic centers that would hire returning researches.
The establishment of the centers has already begun and will continue to take place in the next six years at a cost of NIS 7 billion.
Fifteen Israeli researchers have already returned and started working in four new centers. "It is only the first stage," said Sa'ar. "We are changing course and next year we will set up 10 additional centers that will absorb 80 researchers from the world's top academic institutions."
Tel Aviv University President Prof. Yosef Klafter, who hired 10 of the returning academics, said that the initiative was positive but insufficient. "The trend has yet to stop and the State of Israel continues losing the best minds. Despite their return, more are leaving. We are competing with the best institutions and we must therefore offer them the same research conditions."
Akiva Novick contributed to the report
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