Students at Hebrew University.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israeli universities have for the most part increased their global standing, according to the 2014/2015 QS World University Rankings, which were released on Tuesday.
First compiled in 2004, the QS World University Rankings annually rate the world’s best-performing higher education institutions, assessing some 3,000 and providing rankings for more than 800.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem was the highest ranking academic institution in Israel, at 138th globally, a three-point increase over 2013/2014. Within Israel it was ranked first in life sciences, medicine, arts and humanities, and first in academic reputation.
In second place was the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. However, the Technion’s worldwide ranking of 190 marked a significant drop from the previous year’s ranking of 183.
“With all the criticism of ranking systems, it [QS World University Rankings] is an international measurement that the higher education system and the public assiduously follow each year,” said Ben-Gurion University president Rivka Carmi on Tuesday.
Ben-Gurion University broke into the top 300 universities in the world this year, rising 39 places to 292 since the last survey. It is ranked fourth in Israel.
“Despite our youth in comparison with leading universities in Israel and abroad, we are very much present on the international academic stage with a respectable ranking which will only improve in the future,” Carmi said.
While Israeli universities were celebrating their rise in the QS rankings, last month’s 2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), also considered one of the most objective and important indices, saw Israeli institutions drastically drop in rank.
To make matters worse, this month the government announced it would cut some NIS 175 million from the higher education budget, a move that has caused outrage among leading members of academia and raised questions regarding the future of Israeli academia.
Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, chairman of the Committee of University Heads and president of Hebrew University, joined Prof. Yona Chen, head of the Committee of Public Academic College Heads, and Ori Reshtik, chairman of the National Student Union, to pen a joint letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warning him that this would unequivocally harm Israeli institutions on a global scale.
“This decision will lead to the end of the higher-education era in the State of Israel,” the letter said.
Ben-Sasson, Chen and Reshtik reminded the prime minister of the years 2000-2009, a period that has come to be known as the “lost decade,” when the government drastically cut the budget for higher education. The move inevitably led to a brain drain that saw leading scientists and scholars leave Israel in search of better opportunities abroad, and significantly harmed research programs.
The country’s higher education system is still recuperating from the effects of that decade. The past four years have seen the implementation of the multi-year reform for higher education implemented by the Planning and Budgetary Committee (PBC) of the Council for Higher Education.
One of its goals is to reverse the brain drain and recruit young scientists.
“In the midst of this historic correction, the government is implementing a drastic budget cut to the system, which if it occurs will return the system to the ‘lost decade’ and effectively halt the efforts to rehabilitate it,” the letter by Ben-Sasson, Chen and Reshtik said.
According to the QS Top Universities website, its ranking system is based on four key areas assessed using six indicators, each with a different weighting. Four of the indicators are based on “hard” data while the other two are based on major global surveys of academics and employers.
The rankings take into consideration academic reputation (40 percent) based on a global survey of academics; employer reputation (10%) based on a global survey of graduates’ employers; faculty- to-student ratio (20%); citations per faculty member (20%); international student ratio (5%); and international staff ratio (5%). The latter two measure international diversity.
Bar-Ilan University ranked fifth in Israel for 2014/2015 and placed in the top 700 universities worldwide, maintaining the same rank as in 2013/2014. For the first time, the University of Haifa broke into the top 700 universities.
Tel Aviv University remained in a relatively steady position compared to 2013/2014, ranking third in Israel and slightly improving its international ranking, from 196 to 195.
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