Government to up higher education funding by 30 percent

NIS 7.5 billion to be allocated over next six years.

Saar (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel will boost funding for higher education by 30 percent, with a total of NIS 7.5 billion to be allocated to the system over the next six years, the Education Ministry announced Wednesday.
The increases will occur gradually, with an initial sum of NIS 767 million in the first year and NIS 2.3b. given as the final installment in September 2016.
The ministry said the six-year plan would place special emphasis on research and quality teaching, and one of its main goals would be to hire 2,000 new faculty members.
The plan will also include the founding of 30 new research institutes and increases in grants for competitive research.
In a press release issued Wednesday, the ministry described the program as one that would attract talented young faculty members to Israel’s colleges and universities, possibly helping stave off the “brain drain” that has seen so many Israeli academics chase greener pastures abroad.
According to the ministry, the program “will allow the higher education system to take in a significant amount of new quality researchers. In addition, the changes will allow meaningful improvement in the quality of teaching and the services students receive from schools.”
The plan was announced during a press conference held in Jerusalem on Wednesday by Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and the head of the Higher Education Budgetary and Planning Committee, Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg.
Sa’ar called the new program a “turning point,” adding that the program didn’t constitute just an increase in funding, but also “meaningful steps taken in order to raise excellence, recruit young, high-quality faculty members, upgrade our research and methods of teaching, double the Israeli fund for the sciences, and increase the accessibility of higher education, in particular for minorities and the haredi sector.”
Sa’ar added that the plan included NIS 500m. to increase accessibility to higher education for Arabs and haredim.
The program’s potential to help minorities and the haredi sector was echoed by Steinitz, who said it would “improve the quality of research and teaching, and develop the higher education system among minorities and the haredi public.”
Steinitz said the plan had been made possible in part by NIS 3b. in cuts to the military budget, and that it represented good economic policy for Israel in that it recognized the importance of Israel’s human capital to its national vibrancy.
“Israel’s economic success, which is very impressive, is based primarily on human capital, human capital at its highest level, which is based first and foremost on the higher education system,” Steinitz said during his opening remarks.
Trachtenberg said the program “will place Israel’s system among the world’s leaders in higher education.”
The agreement does not include an arrangement between the state and student union representatives over the costs of tuition, but Sa’ar said Wednesday that tuition rates would not be changed for the next three years.
Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman praised the program on Wednesday, calling it a “breakthrough in higher education for minorities.”
“This program will be a central component in closing the gaps between different population groups,” Braverman said, adding that he believed the six-year plan’s investment in “encouraging professions like medicine, engineering and accounting among minorities sends a serious message of cooperation and encouragement of success among minorities.”
Following the announcement of the plan Wednesday, the head of the National Union of Israeli Students, Boaz Toporovsky, said that “we support any reforms that funnel state funds to higher education.”
However, he added that the union was disappointed that the plan didn’t include “much more widespread reforms that would bring a revolution in the higher education system.”
Toporovsky nonetheless praised the plan and the fact that the government “didn’t try to get students to foot the bill for the budgetary increase.”