Student unions across Israel
endorsed a call to recognize Ariel College,
which is located in the West Bank, as Israel's eight research university. The decision came just one week after various university presidents came out against the establishment and recognition of Ariel University because it is situated beyond the Green Line.
The University Center in Ariel has been investing efforts for a number of years to transform the college into a university, but encountered difficulties
because of its location. This made any change in its status subject to the signature of the sovereign in the West Bank.
The temporary recognition granted to the institution as a university center is set to expire in July.
"We are both shocked and terrified at the sight of a campaign which called on the Israeli government to immediately halt the recognition of Ariel University Center of Samaria. Such calls are a danger to the Israeli academy and more importantly to its democracy," a letter signed by Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University, Haifa University, Ben Gurion University and Bar Ilan University, read.
Ariel University library
"We must not forget that there should be a complete separation between academia and Israeli politics. Dismissing this separation is a flagrant breach of the democratic regulations that exist in a law-abiding country," the letter further said.
Tel Aviv University Student Union chairman Uri Reshtik said that "any addition to the academic institutions in Israel is a vital and positive one. However, upgrading Ariel's status will require additional funding from the State."
Ben Gurion Student Union chairman Nati Hasson further said that "we must separate the political and the geographical issues and focus on whether or not the college meets the academic criteria (for recognition as a university) and further ask whether the recognition of the college will require excessive funding," and added that "once these two questions are settled and the answer to both is positive, then the establishment and recognition of the University will definitely be worthwhile."
Meanwhile, Israeli politicians
and educators remain at odds on whether to grant university status to the West Bank college.
Professor Moshe Mandelbaum of the Planning and Budgeting Committee in the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, which is expected to rule on the matter in July, told Ynet that the number of universities in Israel should be increased "in correlation with the growth of the Israeli economy."