Bar-Ilan Program Head Defends Decision to Admit Yair Lapid

Council for Higher Education's oversight committee rules that students admitted to graduate programs must first earn an undergraduate degree.

The head of the university graduate studies program that admitted television personality-turned politician Yair Lapid even though he lacks an undergraduate degree on Wednesday defended his decision.

On Tuesday the Council for Higher Education's oversight committee ruled that students admitted to graduate programs must first earn an undergraduate degree.

Yair Lapid - Hadar Cohen - 31012012
Hadar Cohen

It also ordered the suspension of Bar-Ilan graduate programs offering accelerating study to 21 professionals.

Speaking to the media for the first time since Lapid's enrollment in Bar-Ilan University was reported several days ago in Haaretz, cultural studies program head Prof. Avi Sagi told Israel Radio's "Hakol Diburim" program on Reshet Bet on Wednesday that the university would honor the council's decision but reserved the right to appeal.

Sagi expressed regret at the oversight committee's decision, which must be ratified by the council plenum. He said he would view the application of the decision as a "black flag for academia," in which the university's doors were closed to new possibilities.

After the decision was issued Lapid wrote on his Facebook page, "In general, I don't care if I have a degree or not, I just love to learn."

'Academia is not a guild'

In explaining his program's flexible admission policy for students like Lapid, Sagi said: "The academic establishment is not a guild, and membership in it and the granting of diplomas has no value in itself."

He said generally people study for a bachelor's degree because they lack knowledge, "but a large portion of the knowledge of some people is acquired outside of the university."

When asked on the radio program whether the assertion by Rivka Carmi, president of the association of Israeli university heads, that Bar-Ilan is the only Israeli university with such flexible admission standards, Sagi replied: "It exists at every self-respecting academic institution in the world."

With respect to Lapid specifically, Sagi said: "I don't know him. From my standpoint, he's not a celebrity," adding that Lapid had been studying with various teachers for the past two years and no one bothered to examine his scholastic achievements. He said other students were accepted in a similar fashion as Lapid, but added: "Fortunately or unfortunately, they are not involved in political discourse."