Education c’tee to tackle issue of subcontracted lecturers

Number of students per senior faculty members has more than doubled; C'tee to formulate recommendations by end of academic year.

Student with laptop at Bezalel library 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Student with laptop at Bezalel library 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
MK Amram Mitzna, the chairman of the Knesset Education Committee, pledged on Tuesday to address the need of finding a solution to reduce the number of subcontracted lecturers in the higher education system.
Upon the request of Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On and MK Dov Henin, Mitzna will appoint a subcommittee to examine the issue, which will be ready to formulate recommendations on the subject by the end of the academic year.
The decision was made during a committee meeting that came after a report by the Knesset Research and Information Center indicating that some 66 percent of public college lecturers are employed from outside of the higher education system.
They are subcontracted workers without job security, title or future academic growth.
The research, which was initiated by Gal-On and Henin, also showed that about 37% of the lecturers in private colleges are external teachers and in universities, about 40% of the teaching positions are occupied by either junior faculty or foreign fellows.
In addition, a study recently published by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies – as part of its forthcoming State of the Nation Report 2013 – revealed that Israel’s top universities have fewer senior faculty positions today than they did four decades ago.
The figures showed that between 1973 and 2010, student population in research universities expanded by 157% and the number of students in the entire higher education system – including colleges – rose by 428%. Yet, the number of senior faculty rose by only 9% in research universities, while the overall number of senior academic faculty in all of the colleges and universities rose by only 40%.
The size of the academic faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University has declined over the past three and a half decades, and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has also lost over a quarter of the faculty positions that it had nearly four decades earlier.
Between 1977 and 2010, the number of students per senior faculty member has more than doubled.
The Taub Center study added that universities in Israel brought in external lecturers in rapidly increasing numbers to replace the tenured and tenure-track research faculty and fill the teaching void.
In 1986, the external teachers represented 13% of the senior research faculty. By 2010, this ratio had risen to 46%. Almost half of the university lecturers today are not on the research faculty.
“The Education Committee of the Knesset must come to grips with this employment system or at least reduce the extent of the phenomenon,” Gal-On said during the discussion.
“The future of higher education, the future of Israeli society is in the hands of all those teachers currently employed in substandard conditions.
“If we want to save the academia, if we wish to stop the brain drain and let successful researchers rise here, we urgently need to eliminate this method and allocate the resources and funds needed to stop employing workers like slaves.”
MK Henin added that “the problematic employment of teachers from outside, without standard conditions and without job security, has become the norm in the academic system and is responsible for the phenomenon of brain drain.”
“There is a need here for rapid change,” he added.
“Instead of the revolving door used to bring young researchers back to Israel, we have to adopt a policy of keeping them here and now.”