Academic Hypocrisy

The university deans accuse the colleges of lowering the admission standards, awarding inflated grades, permitting copying and, in general, tolerating a very low linguistic level.

Dozens of private and public colleges have opened in Israel since the revolution in education accessibility. Their level and contribution to academic studies have been heavily criticized from day one, especially by the deans of the law faculties in the various universities.

The deans accused the colleges of lowering the admission standards, awarding inflated grades, permitting copying and, in general, tolerating a very low linguistic level. The college teachers know that there is frequently a basis to these claims, but the deans have ignored three decisive factors that encourage these illnesses - as well as their very own contribution to these problems.

Since the accessibility revolution, the colleges' academic level has been under the supervision of the Council for Higher Education in Israel, which nominated professional committees that submit their recommendations to the CHI. The public colleges are required to submit their economic feasibility plans to the committees for planning and funding. The private colleges, whose operations are based on high tuitions and donations, submit a general outline of their planned activities.

The need to act within the bounds of the Basic Law:Freedom of Occupation prevents the CHI from regulating the number of private faculties in certain popular fields such as law, business administration and media studies. Since the state isn't required to fund the studies, it allows fierce competition which undermines the academic power of existing institutions, especially if the salaries there are subject to collective wage agreements.

The private institutions offer higher pay, sabbaticals and funding of flights to academic gatherings abroad, making them attractive to teachers and students alike. The teachers - professors who have reached the highest pay level at universities and young researchers who weren't absorbed in the universities - are pleased with their income at the colleges. The students are impressed with the number of staff professors, and are willing to pay tuition which is sometimes three times as high as that determined by the committees for planning and funding.

The professors complaining about the colleges' academic level are at the peak of their powers and were supposed to be giving their best to the institutions which cultivated them. Instead, they're all too happy to join the private colleges and increase their income. Those very same professors, who are part of the committees that approve the opening of their competitors, ignore their own contribution to the weakening of the entire system. The public colleges have become the lowest link of the academic food chain. This, despite the fact that the accessibility revolution was aimed, first and foremost, at improving their status and broadening the academic possibilities available to the population in the periphery of the country.

Of course one cannot underestimate the importance of freedom of occupation, but it's impossible to ignore the toll it takes: Students who either study in institutions with a depleted academic staff, or are forced to pay inflated tuitions.

Another outrageous question arising from the dean's declarations has to do with the universities themselves. In the past 15 years the number of students interested in the humanities is decreasing. These were the very students who funded the more expensive faculties. The financial solution was the formation of expensive executive programs that guaranteed a master's degree within a year. For the right price, professors, who strive for academic excellence, are willing to ignore shortcomings, lower the bar, and grant the degree to those who paid enough.

If the professors want their claims to be treated seriously, the whole system should take action: Prevent the establishment of parallel departments; guarantee similar working conditions to all researchers; and force the institutions to diligently supervise the level of teaching. Superficiality is part of the laxness that characterizes the system. Hypocritical explanations can do little to disguise this.