Professor Zvi Piran, the dean of the Jerusalem School of Business Administration at the Hebrew University, has called for university business schools in Israel to become privatized.
Piran made his comments in a letter to Education Minister Yuli Tamir in response to a Council for Higher Education (CHE) report that warned of a serious deterioration in the quality of Israeli business schools.
The report commissioned by the CHE was written by a group of international experts. It highlighted a long list of problems, including a large number of faculty leaving, a deterioration in the level of teaching and research, a drop in the number of good students and an inability to compete with foreign schools.
The CHE report also recommends increasing state budgets for the business schools, switching to teaching in English, creating a new joint doctoral program for all the universities and improving the business schools at private colleges to replace the universities for basic instruction, but not research.
As a result, Prof. Piran asked Tamir for an urgent meeting in his letter to discuss the report.
According to Piran, the report actually missed the main cause of the present situation: the huge salary gaps between Israeli and foreign business schools. Piran explained that the salary of a business school lecturer overseas can reach $200,000 a year, compared to NIS 150,000 a year for senior lecturers in Israel.
"Despite the Zionism, people do not return to Israel with such a large gap," wrote Piran. He said that in order to deal with the salary problem a structural change in wage arrangements at Israeli universities needs to be implemented. The other option, he said, is to privatize the public business schools to allow them to act independently to solve the problem.
Piran also rejects the report's recommendation to send outstanding students overseas on Israeli-funded scholarships. According to Piran, such programs already exist and in most cases the students decide to remain overseas and pay back the scholarship.
He explains that the situation is now so bad that not only are professors fleeing, but students are too. Outstanding students already go abroad to study, even though a degree can cost over $100,000. They take loans to pay for their education, which chain them to live overseas and pay back their loans.
"We are creating with our own hands a brain drain, also among the best students," writes Piran.
"The only way to to save the public business administration schools is to find a way to change the salary structure. It is necessary to make this change now," wrote Piran.
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