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The Education Ministry is planning to shift responsibility for budgeting teacher-training colleges from the ministry to the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education. The change would probably result in a drastic reduction in the number of colleges that train teachers for state and state-religious schools.

A committee will soon be appointed to set precise criteria for transferring responsibility for the colleges to the CHE over the course of several years.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir met last week with the heads of the colleges and informed them of her decision to reduce the number of colleges to prevent further budget cuts in 2008. Over the past six years, budget cuts at teacher-training colleges totaled NIS 200 million.

According to Tamir, however, the main reason for giving the CHE responsibility for the colleges is pedagogic, not economic. "If we want the training colleges to be quality institutions, with an academic faculty, research capabilities and the development of new programs, they must be part of the general academic system," she said.

The committee will formulate criteria for the transfer based on academic level, infrastructure and enrollment. Colleges that meet the standards will immediately become the CHE's responsibility, while some smaller colleges will begin the process of uniting with others, or with universities. The remaining institutions will close.

There are some 30 teacher training colleges in the state and state-religious sectors, of which only 10 will remain by the end of the process, industry sources estimated.