Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett lashed out at the attitude of the Council for Higher Education members, declaring that the time had come to tell the truth.
“The CHE is no longer the playing field of Breaking the Silence,” he said Tuesday at the 60th anniversary conference of the CHE at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem. “The veteran university institutions of Israel are simply not interested in opening up to competition. It’s a closed club.”
The Bayit Yehudi head and chairman of the CHE, who was referring to the ongoing refusal by the council to accept Ariel University into its ranks, opened his address on a more conciliatory and complimentary note saying that Israel’s academia had, since its very inception, been a source of pride, the main strength of a small country lacking in natural resources and relying on its brainpower.
Israel’s academic achievements had received worldwide recognition, and Israeli scientists and technologists are known for their ability to think outside the box.
In recent years, Bennett continued, there has been a huge increase in the number of students studying in various fields of hi-tech and engineering, and a significant decrease in the number of students studying law. He also referred to the increase in the number of students from peripheral areas who are enrolled in higher education courses as well as the appreciable increase in the number of Arab students.
But as far as Ariel was concerned, he referred to the CHE as a cartel that needs to be broken, noting that academia is supposed to be a bastion of pluralism and freedom of expression, but that the veteran members of the CHE were obviously unable to cope with competition.
President Reuven Rivlin, who has been supportive of Ariel University since its inception as a college in 1982, and recently visited there, was pained by hearing Bennett’s reference to breaking the cartel of the universities. "These are the institutions in which the nation has greatest pride," he said. He also quoted president Efraim Katzir, who said that where there are Jews there will be education.
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There is a shared goal in Israel for excellent independent higher education free of political influence and with the courage to dare, said Rivlin.
The conference was disrupted by angry students whose classes have been suspended due to the faculty strike in institutions of higher education.
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