As a noted mover and shaker in Israeli academia, Nava Ben-Zvi has some concrete ideas about how to rouse a slumbering higher education system.
"It's not just about money, it's about environment," she told The Jerusalem Post last week.
"We are the people of the book and the book has become secondary," she noted.
Ben-Zvi's credentials as an educational expert are impeccable. President of Hadassah College Jerusalem since 1999, she was one of the founders of the Open University, a longtime lecturer in chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and most recently a member of the Shochat Committee, which examined the state of higher education.
Ben-Zvi's main point is the need to differentiate colleges from universities. Colleges should not aspire to become universities, she told the Post. Research universities will attract their fair share, but many who go to colleges will become the core of the workforce.
"We've expanded the number of people in [higher] education, because all professions and the economy now depend on having many more educated people.
"Colleges should cost less to the State of Israel. They don't need research on their premises. The faculty has to be affiliated with other colleges and universities to get an infusion of knowledge, but they don't need to create knowledge. They should be centers of excellence in education. They can be door openers to graduate school, but the main issue is professional training," she advocated.
"We have many colleges, maybe we should slowly specialize [by city]. Do societal issues in Jerusalem, water issues in the desert," she mused.
We need to rethink how we fund higher education as a result, she said.
Ben-Zvi's other point concerns the atmosphere in Israeli academia. More than the money, it's the lack of appreciation and congenial collegiate atmosphere which drives so many academics into the waiting arms of overseas institutions, she said.
"We cannot offer money because they [institutions abroad] will always offer more. But we don't have a collaborative atmosphere. We need facilities, databases, a sense of community, of being embraced. We are not creating an environment of asking questions and studying. People need a sense of belonging," she concluded.
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