Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, head of the Israel Council for Higher Education's planning and budgetary committee, attacked the expected decision of the West Bank Council for Higher Education to recognize Ariel University Center (AUC) as Israel's eighth university later Tuesday as acting with a conflict of interest.

Trajtenberg said Tuesday that the West Bank Council's expected decision will have been based almost entirely on the basis of information provided by AUC itself.

In contrast, typically the decision of recognizing a new university is made in conjunction with the Israel Council, said Trajtenberg, which just recently rejected recognizing AUC at this time, recommending delaying any final decision for at least another year. Currently, AUC is recognized merely as a college, which restricts its budget and its standing in academia nationally.

The West Bank Council was established by the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in the mid 1990s to oversee issues relating to Ariel and other high learning centers in the West Bank since it was considered too controversial to incorporate such institutions beyond the Green Line directly into Israel's Council.

The final authorization for making AUC a university would be made by OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, but generally that decision is expected to go according to the West Bank Council's decision. Ariel was founded in 1982.

It has been seeking recognition as a full-fledged Israeli university, rather than its current status as a college, for some time.

However, it has found itself at the center of a political and ideological debate about recognizing and incentivizing large institutions over the Green Line before borders are set and a peace deal with the Palestinians is signed.

Members of the West Bank Council criticized Trajtenberg and their other critics as being against AUC's candidacy solely because of what they characterized as their political views against encouraging settlements and institutions in the West Bank.

Trajtenberg said that the committee was the party acting out of political considerations, making its decision solely based on a quantitative checklist like the number of students and professors and completely ignoring the quality of the institutions research, how many publications its professors have published and the impact it has had on academia nationally.

He also added that the premise of AUC's membership had started backwards from the normal procedure. Instead of asking whether Israel's Council had a need for another university, whether it be AUC or another college being upgraded, said Trajtenberg, the committee had asked whether Ariel should be recognized.

Finally, Trajtenberg noted that usually committee's deciding on whether to recognize a university include independent academics from foreign university's who have no interest in the matter. He said that the West Bank Council had no such independent members.

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