Hebrew University to Make Massive Cuts in Wake of NIS 200 Million Shortfall

Positions to be slashed and departments merged as HU struggles with dwindling revenues and huge pension payments.

Lior Dattel
Lior Dattel
Lior Dattel
Lior Dattel

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem will be forced to make drastic cuts in order to close an expected NIS 200 million deficit. The university has already started to implement a recovery plan, drafted in the wake of the preparation of the 2013 budget which showed a shortfall of NIS 190 million in revenues.

The plan calls for increasing fundraising efforts, slashing administrative positions and combining departments, which together are expected to provide an estimated NIS 170 million toward deficit reduction.

Various cost-cutting measures have been adopted over the last few years, but these have not helped ensure a long-term balanced budget. The new recovery plan has a much broader scope and will affect nearly all departments. The university’s dire situation came up for discussion at the Council for Higher Education’s planning and budgeting committee, chaired by Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg. Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson presented Trajtenberg with the university’s blueprint for recovery, making it clear that all sectors of the university would be affected.

The university’s budget is thought to be NIS 2.5 billion, NIS 1.3 billion of which comes from the state, and the rest from tuition, donations and research grants. In addition to its deficit, the university has an estimated actuarial debt of NIS 11.3 billion, in the form of pension payments to its staff. This commitment, which casts a shadow over its entire operation, is the highest actuarial commitment of all Israeli universities, which have a combined commitment of NIS 26 billion. This is one of the significant factors contributing to the university’s financial woes, consuming 20% of its annual expenses. In 2011, the university spent more than half a billion shekels on pension payments. The situation was also exacerbated by management issues and excessive retirement benefits given to researchers.

However, this is only one part of the problem. The university is having great difficulties in operating and maintaining four different campuses: the main Givat Ram and Mount Scopus campuses in Jerusalem, the medical school at Ein Karem and at the agriculture school in Rehovot. The university is considering consolidating campuses.

A drop in enrollment has also contributed to shrinking revenues.

In addition, university budgets have been eroded by the last decade’s freeze on national higher education budgets. University officials say that they had “to resort to measures aimed at reducing expenses and operational budgets, as well as trying to increase revenues. All efforts are being made to maintain a balanced budget."

Mount Scopus, one of the Hebrew University's four campuses. Credit: Lior Mizrahi
At the Givat Ram campus' botanical center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.Credit: Moshe Gilad

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