Professors at universities and colleges across the country rallied on Tuesday, along with administrative staff and the National Union of Israeli Students, against anticipated cuts to higher education budgets.

In response to the nationwide movement, the Knesset Finance Committee met Tuesday morning and unanimously opposed the cutbacks.

The committee, which included MKs from all parties, discussed the importance of continuing to implement the multi-year plan to promote higher education, on which the Treasury recently agreed.

The plan means the country’s higher education system will enjoy a cumulative budget of more than NIS 2 billion at least until the 2015 academic year.

The assembly added that it “sees the higher education system as essential to society and the future of Israel.”

Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, who had initiated the plan, called higher education “a pillar of the state.”

“Hi-tech relies entirely on higher education, and the fact that we are No. 2 in the world in terms of Nobel Prizes per capita shows that it contributes more than any other social factor,” he said.

On Monday, the National Union of Israeli Students called for the new government to continue investing in higher education as the outgoing Knesset had, and prevent the possibility of any cutbacks.

Tuesday marked a record number of institutions joining forces to protest. As vigils and information sessions took place on campuses, classes were suspended for two hours.

Participating institutions included Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Bar-Ilan University, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, the University of Haifa, and Shenkar College, as well as Sapir College, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, and other private institutions.

“We will not allow harm to be done to research and higher education,” Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben- Sasson said on Sunday.

“Research and students are the future of the State of Israel.”

Uri Hershtik, chairman of the National Union of Israeli Students, asserted in a statement on Monday that “it has been shown previously that a violation of higher education is a serious mistake that affects the growth of the economy.”

At Tuesday’s committee meeting, Yesh Atid MK Boaz Toporovsky expressed hope that “we will not have to deal with the cuts.”

“We made a lot of noise today, but I still do not know who will be the finance minister,” he said. “This is why it is important that there be a clear and unequivocal agreement signed with the state that the multi-year plan must be carried on.”

He added, “The future of higher education lies here on our shoulders.”

The Finance Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that its budgeting department saw the multi-year program as highly important.

“Nevertheless, it will be up to the new government to prioritize the budget and make any necessary cuts,” the ministry said.

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