Ariel college - Alex Levac
Ariel college campus in the West Bank. Photo by Alex Levac
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The Council for Higher Education has decided that the number of students funded by the state at the Ariel University Center of Samaria in the settlement of Ariel will be allowed to grow to a much greater extent than at many other colleges.

For example, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem will only get funding for eight new student positions over six years. Sapir College in Sderot will get funding for 484 additional students, as will Western Galilee College. The Academic College of Tel Aviv will be allocated funds for 962 new students.

The Ariel University Center will be allowed to grow by about 1,600 students.

"I was greatly disappointed to hear about the allocation of quotas, which on the face of it is a surrender to the politicians," said former Sapir College President Zeev Tzahor. "Sapir College, which is in the most sensitive location in Israel, on the outskirts of Sderot, is receiving a much smaller quota supplement [484] than the Tel Aviv College and less than a third of Ariel's."

The council's plan is part of a reform program set up last year that includes a six-year undertaking to increase budgets at the country's schools of higher education.

The expected growth in student funding in Ariel is consistent with a statement last year by the chairman of the council's Planning and Budgeting Committee, Manuel Trajtenberg. He said 55 percent of the new student positions would be created in the north and south of the country, 30 percent in Jerusalem and at Israeli schools in the West Bank, and only 15 percent in the center of the country. He called this "a dramatic change in priorities."

Most of the colleges - schools of higher education including Ariel that are not considered full universities - will receive funding for the addition of between 300 and 700 students.

The allocations to Israeli institutions in the West Bank were not mentioned in the council's announcement on new student positions. Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who is also council chairman, said priority would be given "to institutions in outlying areas and in national priority zone including the capital, Jerusalem." Among other announced priorities were school subjects deemed import to national economic planning, including science and engineering.

"The criteria are very clear, and based on them, institutions get points, and the Ariel University Center apparently meets the criteria," the council's Planning and Budgeting Committee said. It said Ariel is located in a national priority zone, and apparently the teaching of priority subjects there also boosted the school's point score, thereby expanding funding for additional students.

The Ariel University Center said: "Our assessment is that we got a larger quota [of students] because we greatly stress science and engineering, as well as students from outlying areas. The third [explanation] is that we are a university for all intents and purposes." The school noted that it has 12,000 students, most of whom pay university-level tuition rather than what colleges charge.

"Our budget allocation is as if we were a college, and the correction [the additional council's funding] that was made is not a complete step, it is a correction. We hope this is a sign of things to come," the school added. The council's Planning and Budgeting Committee made it clear that the additional funds are not connected to a possible upgrade of the Ariel school to full university status.

Among other colleges, funding will be increased to add 657 students at Tel Hai College near Kiryat Shmona. Ruppin College will get 902 student positions funded. Jezreel Valley College will receive 570 new student positions.