Yair Lapid
Television presenter, journalist and would-be politician Yair Lapid Photo by David Bachar
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Rising star of Israeli politics Yair Lapid responded on Wednesday to the report in Haaretz according to which the Higher Education Council's decision to probe fast-track PhDs.

Earlier this week, Haaretz reported about allegations that Lapid was accepted for post-graduate studies at Bar Ilan University without an undergraduate degree.

"I am actually happy about the publication," Lapid wrote on his Facebook page. Responding to a question asked on his wall, Lapid said that "this is proof… that the story is not at all about me, they just tried to attach it to me for political reasons."

The Council for Higher Education has asked the country's universities to immediately provide details on any students who do not have a bachelor's degree but who have been accepted for advanced degree programs.

Lapid was accepted to Bar Ilan University without a bachelor's degree, even though the requirements include a BA with distinction. Bar-Ilan said Lapid had been accepted based on his journalistic and literary accomplishments. The Council for Higher Education, however, called the university's explanation "insufficient."

Bar-Ilan says another 20 people, including accountants, writers and journalists, had been accepted to the university's programs without meeting formal requirements.

Sources at the council said they were amazed at this development and the university's response. They said the university was showing disrespect for the significance of an academic degree.

In a letter to the rectors of all Israel's universities, the council announced that it was collecting information on all academic programs that lead directly to a master's degree.