The National Academy of Sciences decried on Sunday the recent decision by the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria to recognize the Ariel University Center as a full-fledged university.

The council held a special session to discuss the decision, which it said was taken without a “fundamental and in-depth international examination” of the proposal to establish an eighth Israeli university.

The academy was founded in 1960 and functions according to law, acting as an adviser to the government in the fields of scientific research and planning of national importance, and is charged with protecting and advancing scientific excellence in the country.

The academy said it regarded the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria’s decision as “serious,” since it contradicted a decision made a few weeks ago by the Council for Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee – as well as the heads of the existing seven universities, who oppose such a move.

The academy said the decision on Ariel was “an irregular move that is liable to endanger the structure of the whole system of higher education and disregards the Planning and Budgeting Committee, which decides on funding for the universities.

“It was blatant government interference in the system of higher education whose independence we are bound to protect.”

It called on the committee to refuse to accept any government allocation whose implementation is not according to its planning schedule. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar reportedly agreed to make special allocations to upgrade the Ariel University Center.

The academy called on the state to halt the process and make a “responsible, professional and objective decision to protect the outstanding and vital system of research universities and the whole system of higher education.”

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