After Yitzhak Rabin was elected to his second term as prime minister he decided on a series of revolutionary changes. The most famous of these changes was the Oslo agreement, which, tragically, was never fully implemented due to Rabin's assassination. Another change, which succeeded, was the establishment of colleges in Israel.
Twenty years on, it is clear that the colleges changed the face of higher education in Israel. Over the years more than 60 academic colleges that are recognized by the national the Council for Higher Education have been founded. Today, most of those who are studying for their bachelor's degree attend these colleges.
There are way too many colleges in Israel - one for every 100,000 people – and the competition between them is fierce. In Israel, as opposed to many other countries, there is no official ranking of universities, making it difficult for students to differentiate between academic prestige and a public relations spin.
The Council for Higher Education's quality assessment committees are usually able to overcome academic deviations stemming from political pressure - and the blatant political pressure on Israel's academic institutions is growing.
Not many people are aware that in Israel there are two councils for higher education that operate simultaneously. One is the national Council for Higher Education, the body responsible for academic institutions in Israel, while the other is the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, which oversees curricula at Jewish academic institutions in the territories. The latter focuses on the college in Ariel.
Academic prestige is an important tool in the fierce competition between the colleges, and the road towards obtaining this prestige is long and hard. But the college in Ariel discovered a shortcut: Getting upgraded to university status. The national CHE dared to oppose the upgrade, which is backed by politicians, so the matter was referred to the CHE in Judea and Samaria, which set up an internal committee. As expected, the committee determined that the college will be recognized as a full-fledged university. The Netanyahu government was glad to approve the decision.
As far as I know, the CHE in Judea and Samaria's internal committee did not check to see whether there was any real need for another research university in Israel and did not compare Ariel college with other colleges to see that it was in fact worthy of the status upgrade. Last week GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon approved the Council's recommendation to upgrade the school's status to that of a university.
The estimation that there are a host of colleges that are at least on the same level as the college in Ariel is irrelevant. The colleges in Israel do not have the "family-oriented" CHE in Judea and Samaria to support them and lack the political character that is needed in order to draw support from politicians. It is doubtful that the graduates of Ariel will be proud that they studied in the only university in the world that was granted a status upgrade by an army general, in contrast to the decision of the national CHE.
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