The incoming president of the Ariel University Center, Prof. Yehuda Danon, welcomed on Wednesday the decision to accept the education facility as a full-fledged university.
The Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education (CHE-JS) decided to accept Ariel as a university, despite a recommendation by the Committee for Planning and Budgeting in the Council for Higher Education (CHE) not to grant the Ariel University Center full university status until next year.
The CHE said that it cannot, at this point, change a decision made in 2006, according to which there is no need for establishing or recognizing an additional university in Israel at this time.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Prof. Danon explained that in Israel, academic centers not recognized as universities receive a budget from the CHE for only 50 percent of their students, whereas universities receive budgeting for 100 percent of students. This means that now that Ariel is recognized as a university, it will have a bigger budget for its students.
At the same time, he noted, Ariel had to increase the number of students over the last six years so it could be recognized as a university. This caused financial difficulties for the university because “in order to become a university you have to make sure you have students, but colleges are not fully funded by the CHE and therefore it’s difficult to move the wheel.”
Danon said that as a university, he expects Ariel to develop additional disciplines such as a faculty of humanities and a faculty of law, as well as to expand its engineering departments.
“Of course, the health professions are also very close to my heart,” he added. Prof. Danon previously served as the IDF’s chief medical officer, as the director of the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva and was one of the founders of the Schneider Children's Hospital.
The college had been battling for months for university status, and opponents have said their objections are based on financial and academic positions, while left-wing leaders have expressed horror that at the idea of a university existing in Samaria.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, a senior Likud member, has been lobbying strongly for recognizing Ariel as a university.
Nationalists across the board welcomed the decision to accept the Ariel University Center as a full-fledged university. Sa’ar praised the CHE-JS for deciding “not to surrender to the pressure and intimidation and made a correct, businesslike and professional decision based on a report by the academic review committee.”
At the same time, MK Einat Wilf (Independence) expressed disapproval over the decision, saying, “I am pained at the decision to recognize Ariel University Center as a university. If the Finance Minister and the Education Ministry have tens of millions of extra shekels for higher education, they should have been used to assist the existing universities, which are recovering from a decade of tough budget cuts.”
Asked whether he believes the left will stop harassing the university now that it has been recognized, Prof. Danon was not so certain.
“The main problem I can see, especially over the next two years, is the budget issue,” he said. “While there is a budget that is based on the principles of the CHE, beyond that there are many budgetary areas which depend on politics and I hope we can overcome all these hurdles.”