Students at Hebrew University.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Leading members of the academia penned a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday calling on him to reconsider the intended budget cuts to higher education.
Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, chairman of the Committee of University Heads, Prof. Yona Chen, head of the Committee of Public Academic College Heads, and Ori Reshtik, chairman of the National Student Union warned the prime minister of the effects of the budget cuts on rehabilitating the higher-education system.
Last week, the cabinet approved a measure to cut 2 percent of all ministry budgets to pay for the costs of Operation Protective Edge, a move that saw the Education Ministry part with some NIS 500 million and an additional NIS 175 million from the higher-education budget.
“This decision will lead to the end of the higher-education era in the State of Israel,” the letter said. “The decision that the State of Israel has taken, particularly today, to harm the higher-education budget brings about a strategic danger to the national strength of the State of Israel.”
The chairmen reminded the prime minister of the years 2000 to 2009, which have come to be known as the “lost decade,” when the government drastically cut the budget of the higher-education system.
This decision led to the “brain drain” that saw leading scientists and scholars leave Israel in search of better opportunities abroad and significantly harmed research at Israeli institutions.
The higher-education system is still recuperating from the effects of the lost decade.
The past four years have seen the implementation of the multi-year reform for higher education by the Planning and Budgetary Committee (PBC) of the Council for Higher Education, which aims to reverse the “brain drain” and recruit young scientists back to the Israeli academia.
“In the midst of this historic correction, the government is implementing a drastic budget cut to the system, which if it will occur will return the system to the ‘lost decade,’ and will effectively halt the efforts to rehabilitate it,” the letter said.
Universities and academic colleges are currently focusing on providing rights and monetary compensation to students who were called on reserve duty to serve in Operation Protective Edge, it said.
“The budget cut that you have decided to apply is an unparalleled cynical step that will harm the same students who protected the country during Operation Protective Edge,” the chairmen said.
The letter was also addressed to Education Minister Shai Piron and Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, head of the PBC.