Are Ph.D.s From a Settler University in the West Bank Recognized in Israel?

Ariel University has not received formal recognition from the national Council of Higher Education, potentially forcing graduates to undergo same process as those with degrees from abroad

Sheldon Adelson, left, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, right, with their wives;
Idan Mizrahi

Ariel University in the West Bank looks like an Israeli academic institute but isn’t officially. Consequently, the doctorates and professorships it has issued are not approved by the state Council of Higher Education.

The school became a university in 2012, when its name was changed from The Academic College of Judea and Samaria – against the vociferous objections of Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, a former top official at the Council for Higher Education. Trajtenberg didn’t think a college over the Green Line need become a university.

The Council of Higher Education of Judea and Samaria, which was founded to bypass Israel’s highest body of academic accreditation, approved the university’s establishment a year ago and was supposed to supervise it. The school was also supposed to undergo a similar process with the national Council of Higher Education but has yet to complete it. Whether Ariel will ever receive formal recognition is unclear because school officials have not taken steps in this direction. Its leaders suffice with recognition from the local body. This situation raises questions about the true academic status of graduates who hold doctorates from Ariel, which is not officially an Israeli university.

“Ariel University awards doctoral degrees and professorships that the Council of Higher Education of Judea and Samaria recognizes,” commented the Council of Higher Education. “The moment that the request for certifying the degrees by the Israel Council of Higher Education is completed, the matter will be debated according to the rules, and in accordance with the process by which the Israel Council of Higher Education has already approved Ariel University to appoint associate professors.”

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In other words, anyone who gets a Ph.D. from Ariel University and wants to work in the Israeli civil service will have to submit his degree to the same vetting process used on foreign degrees held by other civil servants. This is not asked of civil service candidates with Israeli doctorates, of course.

Regarding work at other Israeli universities, each institution will have to itself evaluate the quality of the dissertation and decide whether or not to hire the graduate. It is also up to each individual university whether or not to award Ariel graduates full professorships.

Ariel University rejects stance

Ariel University, meanwhile, rejects the Council of Higher Education’s position. “Doctorate holders from Ariel University who are candidates for jobs in the public (and private) sector are eligible for the same conditions to be accepted to work as their counterparts from any other Israeli institution,” the school stated. “The matter stems from Council of Higher Education rules that state that ‘titles granted by various institutions are recognized identically for the purpose of admission to work, the grade of the employee, wage levels and working conditions,’ and that ‘the provisions of this law are valid for all of Israel.’”

The school argues that this equality has existed for all undergraduate and graduate degree holders from Ariel University. “Thus, Ph.D.-holders from Ariel University do not go through nor do they have to be evaluated by the Education Ministry’s Foreign Studies Department,” the school added.

Ariel University asserts that its process of awarding professorships goes according to exact criteria set by the state Council of Higher Education. There are 49 such professors at the university, 23 of whom received their professorship from Ariel University’s supreme appointments committee since the school received its university status in January 2013.

Six professors joined Ariel University’s faculty after receiving their professorship from other Israel universities or leading schools abroad. All Ariel University full professor or associate professor appointments, as well as doctoral degrees, are awarded with the knowledge of and in coordination with the Council of Higher Education’s planning and budget committee.

The Education Ministry’s Foreign Studies Department, which oversees the evaluation process of degrees not automatically recognized in Israel by the Council of Higher Education, referred questions to the council.