Universities to Strike Tuesday Over Possible State Funding Cuts

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Colleges and universities are planning a two-hour strike on Tuesday to protest what they fear will be massive cuts to state funding.

Classes will be suspended for two hours, and several campuses will hold protest rallies and information sessions.

The schools’ administrations are teaming up with faculty and student associations in an effort to demonstrate unity on the issue.

Finance Ministry officials said last week that while they understood the importance of increased funding for higher education, they would act in accordance with the priorities set by the new government.

In a letter on the issue, the campus coalition warned against cuts following several years of increased government funding. Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, who chairs the planning and budgeting committee of the Council for Higher Education, warned last week of the harm that would be inflicted by state funding cuts.

At a conference on Wednesday, Trajtenberg said across-the-board cuts to state allocations at institutions of higher learning would be an “evasion of responsibility.” In a recent interview with TheMarker, he also said the recent infusion of funds was only designed to halt the decline of higher education and to help campuses rebuild.

Yona Chen, who chairs the committee representing the heads of the country’s public colleges, called cuts to public funding for higher education “irresponsible” and warned that such a move would have substantial negative implications on research and instruction.

Uri Rashtik, chairman of the national students association, charged that “the treasury and the government have brought about the collapse of the system and have hurt growth.”

The Council for Higher Education has presided over a six-year plan which is currently in its third year to provide NIS 7.5 billion in additional state support to universities and colleges. But in August of last year, higher education lost NIS 34 million in government funding as part of across-the-board government spending cuts.

As a result, the Council for Higher Education delayed plans to open two centers that are part of a program to encourage Israeli scientists working abroad to return to Israel.

Another looming issue at the end of this year is a potential hike in university tuition. The current agreement between the government and student representatives on the issue is set to expire.

Students on the BGU campus.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

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