Students warn universities over cancelled free online English courses

“In an unclear manner, you decided that your authority is above the authority of the Council for Higher Education,” Gilad Erditi, head of the National Union of Israeli Students wrote in the letter.

March 13, 2016 21:39
2 minute read.
Ariel University

Ariel University. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)

The National Union of Israeli Students penned an angry letter to the Association of University Heads in Israel on Sunday, criticizing their decision not to allow students to take required English courses online for free.

Earlier this year, the Council for Higher Education, headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett, announced that beginning in the second semester of the 2015/16 academic year, students would have the option to take required English courses for free online and would only have to pay for the cost of the exam, some NIS 300.

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However, the NUIS has asserted that students from all the leading universities – with the exception of Ariel University – were not granted the option to register for the online English courses and were instead forced to register for the more costly courses run by the universities themselves.

“In an unclear manner, you decided that your authority is above the authority of the Council for Higher Education,” Gilad Arditi, head of the National Union of Israeli Students, wrote in the letter.

Arditi offered an ultimatum to the universities, calling on them to resolve the issue by Tuesday. Otherwise, he wrote, “we reserve the right to take unilateral measures,” including legal action.

According to NUIS, the costs to students taking the required English courses vary widely from university to university. The Student Union found that at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology the cost of English courses stands at NIS 1,040, while at Bar-Ilan University and Tel Aviv University the courses can cost up to NIS 2,070.

The Student Union also said it estimated that some 10,000 students are being affected by the decisions not to recognize the free online English courses.

As part of the Council for Higher Education’s initiative, students would be able to take online courses offered by the Open University in accordance with the level of English required by the academic institution, from a pre-basic level to an advanced level course.

The initiative was designed to provide an additional option for students, while academic institutions would still be allowed to continue offering traditional classroom English courses.

The Council of Higher Education responded to The Jerusalem Post, stating: “The vast majority of the academic institutions in Israel have already begun to implement the decision and tens of thousands of students will study Internet courses in English.

“The universities, where there are a number of specific problems, are also committed by law to implement the decision. There will be talks with these institutions in the coming days.”

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