Bennett’s Candidate Elected to Key Academic Policy Role

Leading professors protest the appointment of Dr. Rivka Wadmany Shauman as deputy head of the Council for Higher Education.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at a podium, December 2015.
Ofer Vaknin

The Council for Higher Education on Tuesday approved Dr. Rivka Wadmany Shauman as its deputy head, thereby backing Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s choice.

The council declined to say what the vote was, but Haaretz has learned that 12 council members voted in favor, six were opposed and one abstained.

Wadmany Shauman will serve only until February 2017, when the woman Bennett ousted from the post, Prof. Hagit Messer-Yaron, was supposed to complete her five-year term. At that point, a new deputy head will be chosen.

Bennett’s critics argue that Wadmany Shauman lacks the necessary experience for the job. But his supporters said that appointing someone on the faculty of a teacher’s college to a job traditionally filled by university professors sent a strong message about the importance of education.

Last weekend, the rectors of every Israeli research university except Ariel University sent a letter to Bennett urging him to reconsider Wadmany Shauman’s nomination. Just as a middle-rank army officer would never be appointed chief of staff, they wrote, the deputy council head should be someone from the highest ranks of academia, and also someone with “experience in running large academic institutions.”

Wadmany Shauman once headed a small college that merged in 2008 with Seminar Hakibbutzim Teachers College, where she is now head of development for the field of teaching the arts. She received her doctorate only in 2004 and hasn’t yet become a professor, making her an exceptional choice for deputy council head, a post usually filled by a full professor. Moreover, the council actually refused in the past to make her a professor, saying her academic record didn’t justify the rank.

Bennett welcomed the council’s decision and said he was sure Wadmany Shauman had the personal and professional skills to lead the council in implementing its five-year plan. He also thanked Messer-Yaron for both her work as deputy head and her consent to remain a member of the council.