The Ariel University Center could appeal to the government to reverse the Council for Higher Education’s recommendation to deny the institution university status, should a bill by MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beytenu) pass.

The legislation, which Miller proposed this week, would allow Wednesday’s recommendation by the council’s planning and budgetary committee to be reversed, in that Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar or AUC itself could appeal the decision. The government could then discuss the matter and decide whether to recognize the institution as a university or not.

The bill’s explanatory section states that the government must authorize the Council for Higher Education’s decisions, including the authorization or rejection of new universities. As such, Miller, a resident of Ariel, wrote that the government should be able to reverse the council’s policies after hearing both sides of the issue.

Miller, who also founded a Knesset caucus devoted to making AUC a university, called the recommendation a “first-class scandal,” and accused the Council for Higher Education of putting politics before academics.

“It is unfortunate that the council is keeping this significant institution behind a murkily defined term,” the Yisrael Beytenu MK said, referring to “university center,” and added that he plans to use every parliamentary tool possible to turn AUC into a university.

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), who heads the caucus with Miller, said she would expect “professionals with academic integrity to welcome the college, after it passed all the relevant tests, and not try to keep themselves in an academic cartel.”

The Likud MK referred to a compromise the council offered to AUC last week, in which it would remain a “university center” without requesting an upgrade in status at least until 2015, in exchange for a budget increase of NIS 320 million over four years. AUC rejected the offer.

“I tip my hat to AUC,” Hotovely said. “Giving up on millions for the chance to become a university is a brave and difficult decision.”

“The Council for Higher Education has adopted norms that are practically bribery, offering a significant payoff for AUC not to present its legitimate request to be recognized as a university,” she pointed out.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin also mentioned AUC in an interview with Israel Radio, saying that if the decision not to upgrade the institution to university status comes from professional reasons, it is valid.

However, “if the heads of the universities are only trying to protect their guild and their exclusivity, it’s a serious problem,” Rivlin said.

In addition, the issue should not be about having a university over “the Green Line, may it rest in peace,” the Knesset speaker quipped.

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