Students at colleges and universities across the country are continuing their strike against proposed tuition hikes, now into its fourth week. Efforts are being made to push off an ultimatum by the Committee of University Presidents until Tuesday.

Recommendations by the Shochat Committee, which is set to submit its report to the cabinet at the end of June are expected to include a raise in tuition fees and other changes in the educational system. The proposals have raised the ire of students at colleges and universities and prompted the strike .

The Shochat Committee was established by the government in November 2006 to investigate the future of higher education and develop policy recommendations. The Committee was also tasked with examining the issue of Israeli researchers abandoning the Jewish State for universities abroad and merit-based salary scales for lecturers.

The students protested peacefully Tuesday morning at Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University, the Technion University in Haifa and Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva.

At Tel Aviv University, students closed off entrances to the campus with barbed wire and chains. A late-morning rally to be held in the city Monday was also planned.

Some 400 striking students blocked the entrance to the Technion for a short time, but no violence was reported. The students later held a protest rally in the downtown area but no traffic jams were reported.

Students at Tel Aviv’s Bar Ilan University participated in the protests as well, by “guarding” the entrance to the campus and attempting to convince their peers not to go to class.

A demonstration in Jerusalem was also slated for 4:00 p.m., to be held in front of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Student-Government Negotiations Going Nowhere

Talks between the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance Ministry, the National Union of Israeli Students and National Student Organization have so far failed to resolve the crisis.

Student leaders have rejected an offer to continue the current tuition levels for those already enrolled until they graduate. The government’s compromise would still mean higher education would be more expensive for those who apply to colleges and universities next year.

Tuition currently costs NIS 8,600 per year and would be hiked by an undetermined amount for 2009.

A panel established by the Knesset Education Committee in April is planning to challenge the recommendations by the Shochat Committee.

The panel, comprised of Knesset Education Committee members, has already suggested that tuition be lowered to NIS 6,000 in accordance with recommendations made in 2002 by the Winograd Committee.

Higher Education Presidents Defer Ultimatum to Students 

The Committee of Heads of Universities decided to push off until Tuesday its ultimatum to the students, made last week, to either return to class Monday or face losing the semester.

In an effort to cool down the crisis, the Committee also said the semester would be extended by two weeks in order to allow the students to make up the class time missed during their strike.

Committee members claimed they made the change due to significant progress in negotiations between student union leaders, the Finance Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office.

Secondary School Teachers Continuing Their Strike

High school teachers resumed their rolling strike Monday, along with a number of junior high schools. The teachers walked out several weeks ago to protest stalled contract talks with the Finance Ministry.

Monday’s strike by the Secondary School Teachers’ Association hit the south of the country, but avoided pulling teachers out of classes in communities along the Gaza border.

The union announced Monday it would continue the strike in the northern region on Tuesday, closing classes in the following communities: Abu Snan, Akko, Beit Jan, Bnei Yehuda, Carmiel, Dafna, Gesher HaZiv, Granot HaGalil, Gush Halav, Hatzor Haglilit, Joulis, Kabri, Katzrin, Kfar Blum, Kfar Vradim, Kfar Yassif, Kiryat Shmona, Ma’a lot-Tarshiha, Majjdal Shams, meron, Nahariya, Nov, Safed, Sakhnin, Shlomi and Yarka.

The teachers suspended the strikes, however, in order not to disrupt Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies in schools.