Potential students check out Ariel U
Potential students check out Ariel UArutz Sheva: courtesy of Frank Mecklenburg

A new Knesset lobby will be devoted to pushing through the formal approval of Ariel University Center as a fully fledged university, alongside the seven existing research universities – Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University, Haifa University, Ben Gurion University, the Technion and the Weizmann Institute.

The initiative for the new lobby comes from MKs Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) and Alex Miller (Yisrael Beytenu).

Hotovely fired a fusillade Wednesday at the heads of the existing universities, who demanded that university status be withheld from Ariel.

"The disgraceful statements by the university presidents," she said, "are a mark of shame for the Israeli academia, which busies itself in preserving a cartel for financial and political reasons, and prevents the entry of a dignified institute into its midst."

"I call upon the Minister of Education to continue the processes that will open up the university education market to healthy competition," she added.

According to Maariv, the president of the Weizmann Institute threatened that he would boycott the Ariel University Center if it is recognized as a university. All seven heads of research universities sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday, in which they called the idea of establishing another university "a grave blow to the higher education system in Israel."

Their main argument was that the current budget allotted to research universities would not suffice if an eighth university is added.

Ariel University Center said in reply that the university presidents deliberately evaded the issue of academic qualifications, because they know that Ariel is professionally up to par.