By a vote of three-to-two, the Higher Education Authority’s planning and budget committee decided to rescind its authorization for the establishment of a medical training program at Ariel University. The committee had previously voted in favor of the move, but retook the vote on the orders of the state attorney’s office, who claimed that one of the voting members who approved the department had a conflict of interest.
That member, Dr. Rivka Vadmani-Schaumann, was banned from voting on the change – during the previous vote, the legal officials said, she was a candidate for a professorship at the university – as was Zvi Hauser, another committee member, who was recently named to run for a Knesset seat on the Israel Resilience Party list. Vadmani-Schaumann said that she had not applied for a position at the university and that she was unaware of the possibility that she would be offered a professorship at the time the vote was taken.
The vote is seen as a setback for Education Minister Naftali Bennett, under whose aegis Ariel College was upgraded to a university, and who pushed for the establishment of the medical department to help alleviate the long-standing shortage of doctors in Israel. Commenting on the vote, Bennett said Thursday that “I do not intend to back down. I will fight the university cartel until we establish the medical program at Ariel University.”
In a statement prior to the vote, Ariel University said that it planned on beginning the program, which has been in preparation for three years, in October. “Given the shortage of doctors studying in Israel and in light of the recommendations of the professional groups, including the Health Ministry, Ariel University will be an important component in the development of a solution.”
Bennett has sharply criticized the heads of other universities, who were opposed to the program. “Unfortunately the university heads act as a cartel, a closed group that gets NIS 10 billion a year and is used to setting the agenda, without interference,” Bennett said when the first vote was taken last July. “For years they were opposed to the issuance of doctorates by the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center until we authorized it; they opposed the accreditation of Ariel University until we authorized it. Now they are trying to do the same thing in another context. The days of the cartel are over.”