Recommendations Regarding the Higher Education System

The 11th Caesarea Economic Policy Planning Forum, July 2003

Policy Paper No. 46

  • Written By:
  • Publication Date:
  • Cover Type: Softcover
  • Number Of Pages: 88 Pages
  • Center: Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society
  • Price: 60 NIS

Prepared for the 11th Caesarea Economic Policy Planning Forum in 2003, this policy paper contains recommendations for maintaining the level of expenditures for higher education, particularly to fund academic research in universities in a harsh economic climate.

Team Recommendations

  • The higher education system has developed impressively in the last decade, not only quantitatively but also in terms of a number of significant changes, and in particular, the establishment of a network of academic colleges (both public and private). During the 2002-03 academic year, some 220,000 students are enrolled in these systems, in seven research universities, the Open University, 22 academic colleges (public and private) and 23 academic teacher training colleges. The most significant phenomenon is that commencing from the 2002-03 academic year, the number of undergraduate students in the colleges is greater than that in the research universities. This has reduced the cost of student undergraduate training and constitutes a tangible expression of greater access to higher education.
  • The goals of higher education are: training skilled manpower for the labor market, advanced academic research, preservation of culture, furthering social and national goals, and training senior teaching personnel for the higher education system’s next generation.
  • In the next decade, the higher education system will be faced with the dilemma of continually adapting the universities to a condition where the rate of annual growth in the student body will be lower than it was during the preceding decade.
  • Priorities must be established for advanced areas of science and technology such as: nanotechnology, biotechnology, brain sciences and artificial intelligence.
  • The required policy will supplement and intensify the academic colleges, raising their academic quality until a quantitative critical mass of at least 3,000 students per institution is reached.
  • The allocation of work among the colleges and universities will be such that the number of Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in research will increase at the universities, while the colleges will focus on undergraduate studies and non-research Master’s degrees.
  • The level of national expenditure for higher education in Israel is presently about 1.9% of the GDP (about NIS 9.2 billion), which places Israel quite high in the ranking among the other nations of the world in this sphere.
  • During the preceding three years, as a result of the economic reality in Israel, there have been cuts in the public higher education budget.
  • In view of the needs of the economy and society, it is proposed to maintain this rate in the coming decade, while continuing to enhance efficiency and introducing structural changes that will increase the share of the colleges on the one hand, and strengthen university research on the other hand. This step will lead to greater output from this system.
  • In order to maintain the academic quality of the higher education institutions, a professional body should be established that will specialize in assessing the various faculties, both for the purpose of recognition by the HEC and for re-evaluation of existing bodies. The possibility of using international evaluation organizations who do such work in other countries should be considered, so as to obtain an objective assessment based on advanced international criteria.
  • A major reorganization should be applied to the distribution of work among the teacher training colleges and the schools of education within universities. It seems that the colleges have an advantage over the universities in teacher training and in providing pedagogical tools, while the universities have an advantage with regard to training in certain disciplines. Effective cooperation between the various institutions will lead to improving the quality of teachers in Israel.
  • The access to higher education has greatly improved in the recent decade along with the increase in the number of matriculants, and the opening of the colleges should be credited with this trend. At the same time, the participation of new populations that are currently unrepresented in the higher educational system should be increased, such as the ultra-Orthodox, Bedouins and Ethiopians. As to the ultra-Orthodox, it seems that the various college courses are the most appropriate way to approach this population. We believe that their integration into the higher education system is vital to the development of the Israeli economy, owing to the constantly increasing percentage of this public in the general population.
  • University research is particularly vital in order to maintain the leadership status of Israel’s research universities. The research budget also dictates the size of the higher educational system, as it determines the final output of Ph.D. graduates required by the system. The main expenditure on civil research in Israel is expended at the universities, in the absence of significant civil research institutions.
  • The present scope of research expenditure is NIS 2.6 billion, which is 0.5% of the GDP. A similar rate should also be allocated in the future while ensuring the introduction of state-of-the-art science and technology spheres, with objective external control of the quality of research based on accepted international standards. If care is taken to rationally distribute the work among the various institutions, research may produce more effective outputs.
  • The organizational and administrative structure of the research universities in Israel is problematic. It is, in fact, based on a two-tiered management system with both a rector and president, which is a source for confusion regarding responsibility and authority. Moreover, it is run cooperatively because of the great weight exerted by members of the academic staff on the nomination of the rector, the deans and the faculty heads.
  • This reality is not acceptable in countries where university research is at the leading edge, nor does it foster university excellence and achievement.
  • The team recommends shifting to a hierarchic organization and administrative style, where the chain of command is based on an involved, high-quality public executive committee. A university president would be nominated by the executive committee and would constitute the head of the university pyramid with the authority to nominate the rector, the deans and department heads, while establishing standards for accountability, authority and achievement. A select university senate will constitute an advisory academic body that monitors the work carried out in the institution.