I-CORE - Israeli Centers Of Research Excellence I-CORE - Israeli Centers Of Research Excellence I-CORE - Israeli Centers Of Research Excellence Israeli Centers Of Research Excellence

The I-CORE Program

The Higher Education Reform Plan

The Higher Education Reform Plan

Israel's Higher Education System: Leaping Forward


Background

The Israeli higher education system has grown dramatically since the early 1990’s, from 70,000 students two decades ago to 300,000 this year, and from just seven universities and a handful of colleges back then to over 60 institutions spread all over the country. The significance of such expansion for improved access to education and for social mobility has been remarkable.

Unfortunately, the budget did not keep up with the rapid growth of the system, and hence many institutions experienced a reduction in available resources, certainly on a per-student basis. This resulted in the shrinking and aging of the senior faculty, it fostered brain drain and brought about a marked deterioration of teaching and research infrastructures.

The need to strengthen the higher education system and restore its scientific prowess has become a high priority policy issue in Israel this past year, commanding remarkable consensus across the political and public spectrum. This made possible the design of a far reaching multi-year plan, and helped us secure a quantum increase in the governmental budget for higher education over the coming six years, totaling over seven billion shekels.


Key Objectives

The plan designed by the Planning and Budget Committee (PBC) focuses on three key goals:

  1. Promoting and supporting excellence in research and teaching;
  2. Improving access to higher education of under-represented sectors, primarily the Ultra-Orthodox and the Arab populations;
  3. Upgrading research and teaching infrastructures.


Major Initiatives

In order to realize these goals, the following major initiatives are underway:

  • The establishment of Israeli Centers for Research Excellence (I-COREs), to create a critical mass of talented Israeli scientists in promising research fields, provide them with critical research infrastructure and promote cross-institutional collaborations;  
  • The doubling of funds for competitive research grants;
  • A comprehensive reform of the budget allocation model that provides clear incentives to institutions to strive towards the plan’s goals, including a major drive to recruit new faculty;
  • The development of innovative teaching platforms and tools to encourage and facilitate the successful integration of Ultraorthodox and Arab students.



Spotlight on Faculty Recruitment


In order to Promote and support excellence in research and teaching, it is crucial to enable the institutions for higher education to hire new first-rate faculty. The very large increase in Higher Education budget (another 7 billion NIS over a period of six years, on top of the current budget of about 7 billion NIS) is supposed to make this possible.
The goals the PBC has set, in terms of faculty recruitment, are quite dramatic. The aim is that universities will recruit another 1,600 senior faculty* within the six-year period – of which about half will be new positions, and half replace faculty expected to retire. This will constitute a net increase of more than 15% in university faculty. In colleges another 400 new positions* should be created, entailing a 25% net increase. The new faculty will be hired via the regular recruitment channels of the institutions, some in specific research areas - through the I-CORE program.
The increase in faculty number will of course also reduce the student-to-faculty ratio, the goal being dropping in universities from 24.3 to 21.5, and in colleges from 38 to 35. Reducing the student-to-faculty ratio is naturally an important ingredient in enabling higher quality teaching.
This large scale increase in number of positions, alongside upgrading of research and teaching infrastructures, and increase of competitive research funds, should help Israel coping with the brain drain, assisting the best of those Israeli researchers in Israel or abroad, who wish to conduct their academic work in Israel, do so, in the highest academic standards.


* Numbers are in FTE (full time equivalents), i.e. the number of people to be recruited should be larger