Education Authority Cracks Down on Lapid-style Fast-track Doctorates

Bar Ilan University accepts Yair Lapid to its prestigious doctoral program despite lacking a bachelor's degree.

Bar-Ilan University was ordered to stiffen its admission requirements last night, following the disclosure that media personality Yair Lapid was accepted to a prestigious doctoral program despite lacking a bachelor's degree.

Lapid, who recently announced his intention to run for the Knesset on an independent list, was accepted to Bar-Ilan's flagship "cultural interpretation" graduate program based on his "literary and journalistic talents," even though the program requires applicants to have finished a bachelor's with high grades.

After Haaretz broke the story, Bar-Ilan informed the Council for Higher Education that 21 other students were also accepted to graduate programs on similar premises.

Lapid stated online, "The only reason I went to study was because I love learning, and the only reason they transferred me to a doctoral [program] was that I had particularly high grades. I really don't care if I get the degree."

Last night, the council's monitoring committee ruled unanimously that Bar-Ilan could not accept students without bachelor's degrees to graduate programs.

Those who already have been accepted need to complete undergraduate coursework before they can receive advanced degrees, "as mandated in admission requirements authorized by the CHE," it added.

"The admission of students lacking bachelor's degrees to graduate programs is a deviation from accepted academic standards," it stated.

The committee's ruling needs to be approved by the council's assembly, which is expected to convene soon.

Bar-Ilan stated in response that it "regrets the sub-committee's decision," and added that it would appeal to the assembly.

Other programs also face scrutiny

The committee gave Bar-Ilan a week to send it a list of graduate students who lack bachelor's degrees, and instructed it to inform these students about the committee's decision.

The committee also called for setting up a team to monitor the implementation of its decision, and to report back about how Bar-Ilan was complying.

This team will also review whether other universities are committing similar infractions.

After the Lapid story came to light, the council ordered a wide-ranging probe at all universities, and gave them two weeks to report back on any students who had not met admission requirements.

The Knesset's Research and Information Center maintains that Bar-Ilan is the country's only university to have admitted students to graduate programs despite not having bachelor's degrees.

Bar-Ilan University student union chair, Liron Pulitzer, said last night: "This is a tough but fair decision under the circumstances. Having been a student in the law faculty for four years, I know that rigorous admission standards are a cornerstone for this institution, so I was surprised to see admission criteria had been bent for Mr. Lapid. It's important to remember that the academic world has very clear boundaries, but that non-academic achievements should be recognized in some cases."