Universities: We'll close if Shochat reforms not approved

Deal in principle reached with junior faculty to avert strike for now.

Hebrew university 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Hebrew university 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
In a seeming leap from success to potential disaster, Bar-Ilan University President Moshe Kaveh, former head of the Committee of University Presidents, threatened Tuesday night not to open the universities for the start of the 5769 academic year this fall, even as he signed an agreement with junior faculty that prevented a strike this semester. The Committee of University Presidents was meeting in emergency session to develop strategies in response to potential cabinet approval or rejection of the Shochat Committee reforms on Sunday. Kaveh said the compensation on offer for adopting the Shochat Report reforms was desperately needed to enable the universities to open next year. In return for implementing the reforms, higher education would receive a NIS 1.8 billion budget increase. The Shochat Committee, headed by former finance minister Avraham Shochat, submitted its recommendations last July. Among them were raising tuition, the higher education budget and funds for research. Late Monday night, junior faculty and the university presidents agreed in principle on the former's demands. According to the union, they agreed on a 12-month working year, instead of the current eight or 10, social and academic benefits, and pensions. The details are to be worked out in the coming weeks. Education Minister Yuli Tamir praised the agreement and said now was the time to implement the Shochat reforms. She hopes to place the reform package on the cabinet's table on Sunday. The ministers, however, had not yet decided whether to discuss the package on Sunday by press time. "This is not a cosmetic fix, this is a comprehensive fix that opens the door to a process of rethinking the significance and importance of junior faculty in universities," Tamir said. "Now that the agreement with the junior faculty is signed, there is wall-to-wall agreement concerning the main recommendations of the Shochat Committee, which I put together in coordination with all of the relevant parties in higher education," she said. "All of the parties are united around the need for a NIS 1.8b. boost for the higher education system," she emphasized. The cabinet must approve the recommendations at its next meeting, because the timetables are tight and the higher education system needs to prepare for the next school year," Tamir said.