Panel votes to recognize West Bank college as full university

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The West Bank will have its first full university, pending the go-ahead of the Israeli military.

The Ariel University Center on Tuesday was recognized as a full university by the Judea and Samaria Council for Higher Education, which handles educational concerns in the West Bank. The center, which has more than 10,000 students, Jewish and Arab, would be called Ariel University.

The 11-2 vote came despite a recommendation against approval by the planning and budget committee of Israel’s Council for Higher Education, as well as opposition from the country’s other seven universities and public figures who objected to upgrading a college located in the West Bank.

The final authorization for making the Ariel center a university will be made by the Israel Defense Forces’ central commander in the West Bank, Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon. According to The Jerusalem Post, Alon is expected to back up the Judea and Samaria council’s decision.

The Judea and Samaria council was established in 1997 after the Council for Higher Education refused to discuss academic issues concerning the West Bank, according to Haaretz.

On Sunday, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz announced that his ministry would earmark extra funds for the Ariel University Center, so that it would not cut into the funding of Israel’s other universities. Steinitz said he will ask the government to grant an allocation of some $5 million to $7.5 million for the next two fiscal years, with plans to increase the sum in future years.

Last month, the presidents of Israel’s universities called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent the establishment of an eighth research university in Israel, citing a scarcity of resources. In a letter to Netanyahu, the presidents said that an eighth university would deal a "fatal blow to the higher education system in general, and the universities in particular."

In 2007, the Ariel academic center was granted temporary recognition as a so-called university center, and to reexamine its status within five years. Ariel, with a population of about 20,000, is located southwest of the Palestinian city of Nablus.
 
 

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