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General Articles
Israeli Higher Education Declining in International Ranking: Reflections on The Times Report


Editorial Note: 
Allowing that the ranking of universities, including the Times Higher Education one, is not entirely exact science, there are some worrisome signs afoot. Only two of the seven research universities have made it (barely) to the top two hundred list.   The Samuel Neaman Institute in Haifa backed up these findings, noting that, in terms of publications, Israel went down from twelfth place just six years ago to number fifteenth.   
There are many reasons for such decline, but one thing stands out.  Most of the universities that took top place are private universities with a large  donor base and a huge endowment.  All Israeli universities are tax supported public institutions; they depend on a shrinking government budget overburdened by other social claims.
In his 2000 Report on Higher Education, Justice (ret.) Yaacov Maltz predicted that public largess will decline and urged the universities to engage in a series of reforms in order to create the more efficient management university model.  Despite the fact that Maltz's reform were a timid version of the Margaret Thatcher higher education revolution, they were violently attacked by the faculty; to date, only part of the Maltz Reform was implemented.
Maltz's other suggestion - to increase the donor base of the universities to compensate for dwindling public funds - fared even less well.  In the case of Haifa University and Ben Gurion University, fundraising suffered because of problems involving post-Zionist scholars. The former has yet to recover its standing with donors dismayed by Ilan Pappe; lately some donors were angered by the anti-Semitic cartoon of Professor Micah Leshem.  The latter was dealt a serious setback when a donor refused to honor his commitment to enlarge and modernize the library in protest over Professor Neve Gordon's international call to boycott Israel.  
The presidents of both institutions defended the radical scholars quoting academic freedom.  As the IAM studyAcademic Freedom in Israel: A Comparative Perspective demonstrates, Israeli faculty enjoy expansive academic freedom compared to other Western countries.  As the Times ranking proves, excessive freedom is not correlated with academic excellence.  On the contrary, in the competitive world of today, a well managed university with a large endowment is as important.  
Israeli universities will be well advised to follow through with the Maltz Report and limit the political activism of its radical faculty.  

Israel's universities get lower grades in Time's global survey

Three of Israel's universities made Time magazine's top 200 list last year. This year it only two made it, and just barely.

By Yisrael FischerYarden Skop and Lior Dattel
Published 19:00 03.10.13

While both the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv's University found themselves included in Time magazine's annual list of the top 200 universities worldwide, they were ranked at a significantly lower place this year. The Technion, which appeared in last year's list, failed to make the cut.

The Hebrew University, which was ranked 134th last year, was positioned 191th in this year's list. Its overall score was lowered to 45, from last year's 53.1. The Tel Aviv University barely made the list, being placed at 199th with an overall score of 44.3; last year it was ranked 158th, with a mark of 50.5.

Topping the list - for the third year running - is the California Institute of Technology. Harvard climbed to number two this year, followed by Oxford, Stanford, and MIT. Princeton, UC Berkely, the University of Chicago, and the Imperial College London round out the top ten.

Time ranks the academic institutions throughout the world by scoring them in certain categories. Teaching and learning environment make up 30% of the final score, amount of research and its prevalence also accounts for 30%, research citation also makes up 30%, while innovation and international outlook make up 2.5% and 7.5%, respectively.

Tel Aviv University's score suffered primarily because of its teaching, although it received a good score for research. The Hebrew University also received a good score for citations, but its marks for innovation and overall research suffered.

The Hebrew University ranked 86 for humanities, however. Stanford and Harvard were the top two for this category. No Israeli school made it into the top 100 in the health category, which was led by Oxford.

Haifa's Technion was ranked 69th in terms of technology and engineering, while MIT took the top spot. No Israeli universities made the top 100 list for life sciences or physics, which were led by Harvard and Caltech.

The ranking reflects a decline in Israeli scientific achievement. A recent study revealed a drastic decline in the amount of Israeli research per capita over the last decade. In 1991, Israel was first in the world in terms of publishing studies, and was in the top three until 2003, but by 2009 had fallen to tenth place. According to figures from 2011 (the most recent available), Israel currently sits in thirteenth place.

The study, conducted by the Samuel Neaman Institute and the national council for study and development within the Science, Technology, and Space Ministry, also revealed a decline in the quality of publications, as Israel is currently ranked fifteenth in the world, down from twelfth just six years ago.

In response to the Time rankings, the Hebrew University stated that "Israeli research universities are suffering from a lack of advanced equipment and infrastructure necessary for research in the sciences, which harms their rankings. In the field of humanities, which does not require special equipment, the Hebrew University was ranked among the top 100 universities in the world.

At the same time, Hebrew University has maintained its excellence, which is reflected in the Shanghai rankings, considered the most prestigious and objective, which place it among the top 60 universities in the world."

It is important to note that on the Shanghai rankings as well, Hebrew University slipped six places from last year.

Among the top 20 universities on the list, 15 are located in the United States, 3 in Britain, 1 in Switzerland, and 1 in Canada. The U.S. led the list with 77 of the top 200, which is one more than last year's list. Britain was represented on the list 31 times, Holland had 12 universities on the list, and Germany came in with 10, a drop from last year.

Asian universities did not feature largely on Time's list; Japan was represented five times, South Korea four, Hong Kong thrice, China and Singapore twice. Taiwan had one institution on the list.

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