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The Council of Higher Education has ruled that it will not recognize the degrees awarded by The Academic College of Judea and Samaria (ACJS), Army Radio reported Wednesday, after the college, located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, unilaterally declared itself a "university center."

The heads of the college said that the upgrade from "college" to "university center" represents an interim phase ahead of its evolution into a full-blown university.

However, the state has announced that in the next five years, no new universities will be established in Israel, and that is does not recognize the category "university center."

Representatives from the Council of Higher Education emphasized that should the college rescind its unilateral decision, the degrees it issues will be recognized again, according the report. Nahum Finger, the council's deputy chairman, called on students to rethink their future plans should the college resist the council's orders.

Army Radio also reported that Ariel students have threatened to strike, or to turn to the High Court of Justice, should the sides fail to reach a compromise.

Boaz Toporovsky, the chairman of the National Student Union, promised that he and his colleagues "won't leave the Council of Higher Education alone in order to prevent the students from being harmed."

"We're fed up that every conflict in the higher education system comes at our expense," Army Radio quoted Toporovsky as saying. "All that interests us is that the degree of a student who studied in Ariel be recognized by every institution in Israel."

The Council of Higher Education has warned that additional, harsher sanctions will be placed on the college should it not obey the council's directive.

Representatives from the Student Union and the Council of Higher Education will meet on July 1 in order to discuss the fate of students who will be affected by the decision.