Democracy watchdog to Bennett: Reform the Council for Higher Education

“The framework we recommend is intended to guarantee there will be enough independence for the higher education system and that it will be disconnected from political upheaval."

February 28, 2016 20:07
1 minute read.
Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennett. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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The Israel Democracy Institute penned a letter to Education Minister Naftali Bennett calling on him to change the selection process for members of the Council for Higher Education and its planning and budgeting committee.

The letter, signed by IDI president Yohanan Plesner, vice president Mordechai Kremnitzer and researcher Hanoch Dagan, came following the resignation of six members of the council last week.

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Among the main reasons behind the resignations were the controversial dismissal by Bennett of Prof.

Hagit Messer-Yaron and the subsequent appointment of Dr. Rivka Wadmany Shauman as vice chairwoman – a move that has since sparked an outcry from the academic community.

The IDI letter offered a list of recommendations for Bennett, who heads the Council for Higher Education, primarily calling on him to change the council’s composition and the method by which new members are selected.

“Form a committee for appointing members of the Council of Higher Education, have the process overseen by the attorney-general and better coordinate with representatives from a variety of fields,” the IDI recommended.

The signatories also urged Bennett to appoint a deputy head of the council and give that person authority over specific issues, and to include representatives of the public on the selection committee. The goal, according to the writers, is to “constructively advance changes that will protect the independence of the higher education system and prevent crises like the current one from erupting in the future.”

Plesner said the goal was to “ensure the professionalism and the excellence of the Council of Higher Education.”

“For many years, the State of Israel has been among the top 10 leading countries in the realm of science and research; this is one of the relative advantages Israel has in a hostile security environment,” he said of the letter.

“The framework we recommend is intended to guarantee there will be enough independence for the higher education system and that it will be disconnected from political upheaval.

Bennett must create a method for administering the committee in a way that would enable it to continue to move Israel forward to new scientific heights,” he said.

The letter followed others penned to the education minister in recent weeks, including a petition signed by over 1,500 academics warning of a “crisis of confidence” between academics and the Council for Higher Education.

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