Education minister is expected to announce establishment of a university in the Galilee

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by Ifi Reporter Category:Government Sep 19, 2022

The Minister of Education, Yifat Shasha-Biton, is expected to announce in the coming days the establishment of a new university in the Galilee, which will be the first to be established in the region, and in total the 11th university in Israel. Even though this is an election period, Shasha-Biton is expected to bring the decision to the approval of the Higher Education Council (HEC), which is expected to support it during, after Rosh Hashana. and OT), where objections are actually expected.
In the past, there were differences of opinion in the higher education system on the need to establish a new university in Israel, based on the assumption that the research budgets should be focused on the existing universities - but now there is an agreement on the issue.
The members of the Council for Higher Education were appointed in April by Shasha-Biton - who serves as the chairman of the Council by virtue of her position as Minister of Education. It is not yet known what the Vat's position will be, but one of its members has already expressed opposition to the move. However, the committee also opposed Reichman and Ariel universities, but this did not affect the move.
The decision to establish a new university in the Galilee was made by the government in 2005, with the support of the then Minister of Finance, Benjamin Netanyahu, who later repeated the promise in 2015 and in the 2021 election campaign - but did not implement it.
About 5,000 students study at Tel Hai College and about 1,300 faculty members are employed there. It has a faculty of life sciences and technology, which includes, among other things, studies in biotechnology, computer science, food sciences and environmental sciences, and a faculty of social sciences and humanities.
In April, Shasha-Biton stated at the Galilee Finger Conference that "there have been investments in the region in the past, but they failed to create an anchor. We know that the only thing that will do this is a university. The question is not 'if' but 'how' - a university will be established in the eastern Galilee." Shasha-Biton served herself, until 2015, as the vice-president of Ohalo Teaching College, which was merged with Tel Hai College in the same year.
Tel Hai College was chosen to lead the move, consolidating its activities or cooperating closely with the Miguel Research Institute in the Galilee, which focuses on the fields of agro-tech and food-tech. Apparently, the Ort Brauda College of Engineering will also take part in the process - and it is expected to become a kind of arm of the university for studying engineering subjects. The college has a vision to become a university that will focus on natural sciences, agriculture, food and the environment. As part of the decision, Tel Hai is expected to change its name to Tel Hai University or Galilee University.
Tel Hai College's budget from the state in the previous academic year amounted to approximately NIS 112 million, and it is expected to increase as a result of the decision to convert it into a university. At this stage, no additional budget has been located to complete the move. In order to turn the college into a university, its research budgets must be increased, because today the colleges are budgeted as entities that deal mainly with teaching and not research. Therefore, the state will be required to invest significant budgets in expanding Tel Hai's research and teaching infrastructure and recruiting new faculty members.
It is possible that Tel Hai College will be required to cooperate with the other academic colleges operating in the area, such as Safed and Kinneret Colleges, but it is not yet known what their role will be when it comes to the new university (except Ort Brauda, ​​as mentioned). The higher education system is awaiting the response of the other colleges in the Galilee region, assuming that they will oppose the establishment of the university if they are not partners in the move. In recent years, many of them have tried to lead a move to upgrade their status to a university, or to take part in the unification of campuses, as part of opening a new university that will consist of all the colleges in the region.
On Wednesday, a discussion of the proposal will take place at the VoT chaired by Prof. Yossi Makori, the former president of Tel Hai College, who during his tenure promoted the plan to turn it into a university. Makori will be prevented from participating in discussions on the subject. However, sources in the higher education system claim that the very appointment of Makori, who is identified With a plan to upgrade the status of Tel Hai to a university - influenced the decision-making procedures in the MLA.
A member of the Planning and Budgeting Committee, Shmuel Slavin, said yesterday that he is considering opposing the proposal. According to him, "There is no justification for making such a decision during an election period. The Minister of Education and the coalition decided that this is what they want, and no one checked whether there is even a need for 11 universities and what the consequences of that would be." He added: "There is political interference in our work here, and I am surprised that senior officials in the academy cooperate with this. That they do not come later with claims about interference in academic freedom."
Shasha-Biton is expected to submit the proposal to the Council for Higher Education regardless of the budgeting committee's decision.
In the event that the decision is approved by the General Assembly but no budget is found to implement it because of the election period - it will remain within the scope of a General Assembly decision that the next government will be required to implement. Despite this, it is possible that until an agreement is reached on the budget to implement the move, the decision will only result in changing the name of Tel Hai College to Tel Hai University and anchoring collaborations between it and other academic institutions.
That is, it is possible that the change in the first stage will be mainly at the symbolic level. However, even such a change is expected to have a major impact on the demand for studies in Tel Hai compared to other higher education institutions in the region, with the main impact being on the University of Haifa.
The idea of ​​establishing a university in the Galilee began to be tested in the early 2000s. Initially, there was talk of a merger between the campuses of the academic colleges in the north. In 2005, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Education Minister Limor Livnat and Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed on the establishment of a university in the Galilee, which would consist of a union of colleges and be funded by donations. The main donor was supposed to be businessman Arnon Milchan.
The initiative did not come to fruition, partly because of the opposition of the Legislative Council to the establishment of a new university. Instead, in 2010 the Legislative Council considered promoting another plan to establish a campus in the Galilee of the University of Haifa, which would become the University of Haifa and the Galilee. This plan also did not come to fruition, even though the university tried to promote it in recent years.
In 2015, Netanyahu announced on his return as prime minister that the government would establish a university in the Galilee, by uniting colleges operating in the north - but the initiative was not promoted.

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