Israel's University Heads Oppose Upgrade of West Bank Education Center

Ariel University Center is expected to be upgraded by Council for Higher Education to university status in coming weeks.

The Ariel University Center in the West Bank is expected to be upgraded by the Council for Higher Education to university status in the coming weeks and public criticism of the potential upgrade is growing.

On Wednesday morning, the presidents of Israel's seven universities sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling on him to prevent the establishment of another research university in Israel.

The letter was sent following a recent emergency meeting held by the heads of Israel's universities.

In the letter, the presidents said that the establishment of another university would deal a "fatal blow to the higher education system in general, and the universities in particular."

"For many years, the universities have suffered from under-budgeting, which harmed the research capabilities of the State of Israel, led to braid drain abroad, and delayed the development and advancement of research and education infrastructure," the letter read. "These years are known as 'the lost decade', and with its consequences the universities have dealt with great difficulty until today. Recently, under the leadership of your government, a spirit of welcome change came, in terms of investment in higher education in Israel… the initiative to establish another university, the eighth, is completely contrary to this spirit, since there is no real need for another university in Israel."

"This step would greatly harm to the capabilities of Israel's existing universities to recover from 'the lost decade' and actually will set them years back."

Technion President Professor Peretz Lavie told Haaretz on Wednesday that there is no political motive, regarding Ariel's location in the West Bank, for the presidents' opposition to the upgrade.

"There are no political reasons here," he said. "I was among those who opposed boycotting the University Center. The problem is the harnessing of higher education for political purposes while skipping over all professional steps. There is a political group that sees the State of Israel with different borders and adding a university to these regions changes the political situation."

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