Student Leader Touts Higher Ed Reform as 'Revolutionary'

The education and finance ministers, university heads and student leaders are to announce today an agreement for higher education reform that is nothing short of "revolutionary," says the head of the National Student Union, Boaz Toporovsky.

"The agreement we have reached is a real revolution that will fundamentally change the relations between academia and the Israeli student," he said. The plan will be presented at a news conference today.

Toporovsky denied reports of a tuition increase and said it was agreed not to raise tuition without consulting the students for the next three years.

The principles for the five-year reform agreement approved by the students' leaders last night include NIS 100 million for reimbursing students for excess tuition over the past two years, Haaretz has learned.

Each student will receive NIS 800-900 from state-funded academic institutions.

The principles stipulate that the parties open intensive negotiations for the five-year plan.

"The reform is based on the mutual understanding of the need to significantly increase the overall resources at the disposal of the higher education system and to improve the students' conditions and welfare," the agreement says.

"It is agreed that this increase will come from three sources - changing state budgeting for higher education, changing the students' present tuition structure and the higher education institutions themselves."

Officials said the government will add NIS 2.5 billion to the higher education budget over the next five years. After the reimbursement to the students is approved, tuition will also be reexamined, including the possibility of returning loans after the students have finished their studies, the agreement says.

The students object to the treasury's demand to raise tuition by some 15 percent. "Unless the sides' commitments are kept, the agreement's implementation will stop," the agreement says.

"We also obtained a commitment not to change tuition without consulting with the students for the next three years, even if there isn't a detailed agreement between the sides," Toporovsky said.

It was also agreed that a student representative will take part as an observer in the meetings of executive, control and finance committees in all academic institutions, he said.

The agreement consists, among other things, of changing the budget allocation to academic institutions and improving research and instruction infrastructures. Representatives of the Higher Education Council, students and government are also examining ways of enabling students from low-income families to study at universities for minimal cost.