The Justice Ministry has ruled that the Ariel College in Judea and Samaria must not call itself a University Center.

Though the institute "was upgraded to its present status as a University Center after undergoing the proper administrative and academic procedures," in the words of Ariel's Chairman of the Board Yigal Cohen-Orgad, the Justice Ministry found a technicality that appears to void the entire process.

The Ariel University Center is located in the heartland of Samaria, and its upgrading is a matter of controversy between those who support a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, and those against.

The Ministry explained that Ariel must revert to calling itself a college, as it did until last year, because the sovereign entity in Judea and Samaria is the IDF and Civil Administration - which were not consulted and did not give their approval for the change. "Because this approval was not given, the name change is not approved," the Justice Ministry stated, accepting the stance of the Council for Higher Education.

Cohen-Orgad responds that just like colleges in mainland Israel do not require government approval for a name change, so too Ariel does not require the approval of the IDF/Civil Administration.

Nevertheless, the Justice Ministry warns that "if the college does not change its name [back to Ariel College], a suit to the Court for Procedural Matters will be considered, in accordance with the authority legally granted to the Attorney-General."

The Ariel College boasts the largest student body of all colleges in Israel, and the Council for Higher Education orginally had approved upgrading its status to a university.

Scientists' Council Approve University Status
Back in 2006, a council of six top scientists - including four Israel Prize winners and three members of the Israeli Academy for Science - analyzed the research and teaching activity in Ariel, and determined that it was already functioning almost totally like a university. The council, which had been appointed by then-Education Minister Limor Livnat, decided that the College should receive temporary recognition as a university for three years.

To finalize the new status, Ariel was charged with fulfilling certain tasks, such as increasing the number of different degrees it granted to four. This was accomplished in July 2007, Cohen-Orgad said.

Growth of School
Located in the city of Ariel, a bustling town of 17,000 people in the Samarian hills, the 26-year-old University Center continues to grow and diversify to "meet the new challenges of a burgeoning society with rapidly changing needs," its website states. It currently boasts 8,500 students from all over the country, including 70% coming from the greater Tel Aviv area and central Israel.

As a demonstratively Zionist institution, the University Center has two key requirements: every student must study one course per semester on some aspect of Judaism, Jewish heritage or Land of Israel studies, and the Israeli flag must be displayed in every classroom, laboratory and auditorium on campus.

The University Center offers undergraduate studies in a wide variety of subjects: Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering & Electronics, Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology, Industrial Engineering & Management, Mechanical Engineering, Architecture, Physiotherapy, Health Management, Nutrition, Medical Physics, Social Work, Behavioral Sciences, Economics & Business Management, Mass Communications, Israel & Middle Eastern Studies, Israel Heritage, General Studies (Humanities), Applied Physics, Molecular Biology, Biological Chemistry and Mathematics & Computer Science.

In the near future, Ariel University Center of Samaria will open additional undergraduate courses in Education, Communication Disabilities and Material Science.