New Knesset Panel to Challenge Shochat Education Reforms

Shochat panel expected to recommend university tuition hike; Knesset committee will recommend tuition cut, and resort to legislation to implement recommendations.

The Knesset Education Committee decided Sunday to form a committee to challenge the higher education reforms currently being formulated by the Shochat panel.

Last Tuesday, university students embarked on an open-ended strike protesting the Shochat Committee's expected decision to raise tuition fees.

The new Knesset panel will review the tuition issue as well as the higher education crisis reflected in recent strikes staged by students and faculty.

Knesset Education Committee Chairman Rabbi Michael Melchior said the panel's recommendations would be submitted to the cabinet as soon as possible, and if they are not approved, the committee would then implement them through legislation.

The new panel will consist of MKs currently serving on the Knesset Education Committee.

The Shochat Committee and the Knesset panel are expected to submit to the cabinet opposing recommendations. The Shochat Committee is expected to recommend a hike in tuition fees and develop the financial aid institutions, while the parliamentary panel will likely recommend a substantial tuition cut.

A member of the Shochat Committee said that he is "concerned that this may be the end of the Shochat Committee. If we're turning to legislation, what is the point of making recommendations? It is clear that if there is no tuition hike, none of the Shochat reforms will be implemented ."

The Shochat Committee's main goal is to enlarge the resource pool available for higher education, which will partially be accomplished through a tuition hike.

Committee chair Abraham Shochat stressed Sunday that his committee had been appointed by the government . "The committee does not intend to cease its work, and will submit its recommendations to the cabinet at the end of June, unless it is specifically instructed not to by the government," Shochat added. He explained that his panel's intention is to "strengthen higher education and maximize its accessibility to any worthy candidate, with an emphasis on those who do not have the financial means for (higher education)."