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Five hundred proposals from academic institutions in Israel to establish new academic programs are currently in different stages of deliberation by the Council of Higher Education, according to Moshe Vigdor, director General of the CHE and the Planning & Budgeting Committee Vigdor gave the figures in addressing the annual conference on higher education in Jerusalem on Thursday.

The CHE is now confronting this bottleneck with the help of a new program, announced at the conference, and whose aim is greater streamlining.

At the CHE/PBC they say that the process of examining the various proposals can last from two to four years and are causing considerable frustration in institutions of higher learning. It is customary to approve or reject academic proposals in specialist committees that are set up on an ad hoc basis. Such committees are not uniform in their rules and regulations and lack a timetable.

In February, Vigdor described the process for clearing a proposal as "complex and one of many stages, causing complications and delays, dictating a drawn out and slow process, and threatening the systems in academia with collapse."

The new streamlining program will curtail the time it takes to carry out the evaluation to no more than a year from the day the request for a new academic program is made. Instead of ad hoc committee, permanent committees will be set up and required to stick to a strict schedule.

Within a month from the time they are registered for evaluation, projects will be passed on to the relevant committee, and it will be asked to provide a recommendation within four months, in the case of new academic institutions, or within three months for new programs or accreditation for granting degrees. The committee's recommendation will then be brought to the CHE for final approval.

At the CHE they say that the delays in the approval of programs often stem from delays on the part of the institutions that are required to alter or improve their proposals in line with requests from the CHE. According to the streamlining program, the evaluation committees will give their comments to the institution only once, and the institution will have to implement them within a limited time period, which will be determined by the committee. If an amended proposal is not resubmitted within the predetermined time, the handling of the proposal will end.

Currently, there are 100 requests pending for academic programs at education colleges; 70 requests for engineering colleges; 80 from the universities; and another 245 applications for academic programs in other colleges.

The response to the idea of streamlining the evaluation process has been favorable, on the whole, among the academic institutions.

Professor Rafi Melnick at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center said that "what we heard at the conference was a breath of fresh air, and we welcome it. There is no doubt that the process for approving programs in recent years has been very slow and very bureaucratic, so it was necessary to carry out reforms a long time ago, and even to revolutionize the structure of higher education."

Melnick, provost at the IDC, added that "the execution is the real test [of the streamlining effort]."

Professor Ami Valensky of Tel Aviv University, who specializes in higher education, said that "in two or three years we will know if the plan of the CHE is the right answer to the bureaucracy that has drained all motivation from the institutions [of higher education]."