The Israeli Council for Higher Education approved Tuesday a request by the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya to change its status from a college to a university – a step that will make it the country's first private university.
Members of the council recently concluded that the center meets all the standards required of a university, but has not held a meeting on the necessity of having a private university or the expected ramifications for the higher education system as a whole. The IDC plans to change its name to Reichman University, after the center’s founder and president, Prof. Uriel Reichman.
The council's Planning and Budgeting Committee, which is responsible for the planning aspects of the higher education system, opposed the IDC’s request out of concern for the broader consequences for the system, such as exacerbating inequality between students.
Last year the IDC received permission from the council to launch PhD tracks in law, psychology and computer science, but was not permitted to change its name. Recognizing it as a university could have several ramifications. It is expected to increase competition between public universities and the new private one, and affect private colleges, which charge tens of thousands of shekels a year. The IDC will likely have an advantage over them because for a tuition similar to that of a private college, the IDC would be granting a university degree, which is considered more prestigious than a degree from a college.
The IDC has long operated as a private college, charging tuition that starts at 42,000 shekels (almost $13,000) a year. The main beneficiaries of defining it as a university will likely be students from affluent families (though some IDC students qualify for scholarships).
Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, who serves as chairwoman of the education council, said the move was "another stage in strengthening higher education in the country."
Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, chairwoman of the education council, said the move would "lead to further development of a thriving academic system in Israel."