Nobel Laureate Scolds Government for Slashing Higher Education Funds

Prof. Dan Shechtman says impact of budget cuts in 'lost generation' also felt at Technion, his own academic institution.

Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry, Prof. Dan Shechtman, told Israel Radio Thursday that he and his fellow scientists felt humiliated by the deep slashes in funding for higher education over the past decade.

Shechtman said the sense of humiliation was "because it did not seem that the sovereign, which is the government of Israel, sees the importance of our work and that expressed itself in huge budget cuts."

Dan Shechtman - Government Press Office - 07102011
Government Press Office

Shechtman also said that the impact of the budget cuts in the "lost generation" was also felt at the Technion, his own academic institution. "The Technion slashed a number of positions in a heavy-handed way, and the number of professors was terribly reduced at the Technion as well as at the other universities. There was no money for salaries," he said.

However, Shechtman also noted improvement in that area at the universities, due to steps taken by the government "as opposed to previous periods that were very bad." "I believe these steps should continue. The direction of the government is correct and it should be continued."

Shechtman said that to produce scientists, "they must be trained from kindergarten, through elementary school, middle school and high school, so that the people who reach university aspire to be scientists."

On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in his office with Shechtman, together with Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz and Technion president Peretz Lavie. Netanyahu pledged at the meeting that many more Israelis would win the Nobel Prize thanks to the government's investment in education.

Shechtman met on Thursday morning with the Swedish ambassador to Israel, Elinor Hammarskjold. The ambassador congratulated the newly minted laureate and said the award had raised tremendous interest in Shechtman's work among students and the general public in Sweden.