Yair Lapid
Yair Lapid Photo by Hadar Cohen
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The Council for Higher Education will investigate whether Yair Lapid, the new rising star of Israeli politics, climbed too far and fast in the country's higher education system without the requisite qualifications.

A Haaretz report indicates that Lapid was accepted onto Bar-Ilan University's prestigious culture and interpretation graduate program, which accepts only candidates who received a B.A. degree with honors. Lapid, a news and media personality whose recent announcement of his Knesset candidacy was accompanied by reports of skyrocketing popularity in polls, has no undergraduate degree.

Last night, the Council for Higher Education announced it has "initiated a probe of this matter and has turned to Bar-Ilan University, asking for an explanation." The council has not yet indicated whether Lapid's acceptance onto the program was improper.

Speaking anonymously, one senior-level academic at Bar-Ilan University said yesterday, "Universities make deals and 'long-term investments' regarding people who are likely to help them in the future - be these top military officers or politicians." The university says that Lapid was accepted onto the demanding master's and doctorate program, which is considered a flagship at the institution, on the basis of his "literary and journalistic achievements."

The university added yesterday, "Lapid meets all the requirements relevant to acceptance on this multidisciplinary track on which outstanding students begin graduate study [for a doctorate] while they are completing master's level work."

Bar-Ilan University's admissions guidelines state that the culture and interpretation graduate program is "designed for students who completed their undergraduate studies with distinction, and who demonstrate a wide range of scholarly abilities." The guidelines add that the program's interdisciplinary approach will have meaning only to a candidate who studied one or two disciplines in depth during his or her undergraduate course work."

Responding to the Haaretz investigation, the Council for Higher Education said last night, "In general, nobody can be admitted to a master's program at an academic institution if he or she lacks an undergraduate degree."

Bar-Ilan University responded: "We have received the query of the Council for Higher Education and we will respond accordingly. We reiterate that Mr. Lapid was accepted for master's degree studies in a program for people who do not have their bachelor's degree but who have outstanding achievements in the area they wish to study. These candidates are also required to present recommendations and are accepted to the program only if the master's degree committee unanimously approves their acceptance. Mr. Lapid met all the requirements. Lapid is not the only student in this program."