Bar-Ilan University no longer supports the legal petition against upgrading the academic center in Ariel to a full-fledged university, Professor Moshe Kaveh said on Monday.
Israeli university heads have sought the reversal of a July decision by the Council of Higher Education in Judea and Samaria in favor of granting the Ariel University Center full university status. They filed a petition with the High Court of Justice in opposition to the council’s decision.
The Committee of University Heads responded to Bar-Ilan University’s revocation of its signature by saying it was sorry that “political considerations” influenced its decision.
Kaveh said he retracted his support of the petition after learning that it was not a petition of the committee, but rather each university acted as a side in the case. The Bar-Ilan president said he did not want to take legal action against an institute with which his university cooperates, but stressed his opposition to the establishment of a new university.
The committee claimed in its petition that the decision was made in a sub-par fashion. The Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria overstepped its authority by ruling on a matter that influences Israeli higher education in its entirety whereas it is tasked with administering institutes in the West Bank alone.
“In the three central considerations for the decision — that is, the academic, the planning, and the budgeting considerations — there were faults that go right to root of the matter,” the petition reads. “Each one alone requires reversing the decision.”
Committee chair and president of Ben-Gurion University Rivka Carmi said the decision to make Ariel Israel’s eighth university was wrong.
“A great mistake has been made,” Carmi told Army Radio. “An academic mistake, a mistake of authority and of budgeting. The process was very problematic and bypassed the Planning and Budgeting Committee.”
In response, Ariel University expressed regret at the “cartel of university heads that are trying to undermine the approval of academic institutes in Israel.”
Eli Ayalon, a member of the Ariel University Directors’ Council, countered that the decision was made in an appropriate manner and in keeping with government decisions.
The Committee of University Heads named the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria (CHEJS), the IDF commander for the West Bank region, and the ministers for Finance, Education, and Defense in its petition.
Last month the Committee for Higher Education in Israel, under pressure from right-wing ministers and politicians, finally voted to recognize Ariel University as a full-fledged university upgrading its status from a college and “university center.” The move had faced strong opposition, in particular from other established Israeli universities, which claimed Israel had no need for yet another university that would only strain academic budgets. Ariel University also faced opposition from left-wing groups due to its location in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has delayed giving his final approval for the upgrade, saying he wanted to consider the political and security implications of the decision.