Broken pledge sparks anger

November 7, 2003

Students burnt tyres, paraded in bikinis and bedecked donkeys with placards outside five blocked university campuses across the country in protest against the Israeli government's failure to honour a 2001 recommendation to halve tuition fees over five years.

The Winograd Committee recommendations required a 14 per cent cut in the first year and 9 per cent in subsequent years. But, according to Moshe Inbar of the National Union of Israeli Students, the first-year reduction of 14 per cent was followed by a 3 per cent fall in the second year, instead of 9 per cent, with a further 3 per cent in the third year.

Mr Inbar said the government was turning its back on students. "Instead of reducing the amounts, the government wants to raise tuition fees for BA degrees by 10 per cent and for MA degrees by 20 per cent.

"If the government had kept its promises, the tuition fees for BA degrees would be 6,173 shekels (£835) for next year, while the fees for MA degrees would stand at 11,170 shekels."

Instead, undergraduate students will pay 9,130 shekels and graduate students will pay 11,300.

More than 100,000 undergraduate students took part in the one-day strike.

Tel Aviv University students did not join their striking colleagues because, they said, they preferred to take their grievances "to the gates of the government".

Sagiv Assoulin, chair of the NUIS, said: "The campuses will strike for a day as a warning to the [Knesset's] finance committee to keep its promises to the students."

He called for an urgent meeting with the finance minister, saying that "the gaps between us and the finance ministry are not large".

In next year's budget, the Israeli treasury plans to cut university funding by 193 million shekels, which will affect teaching, research and student services. With a combined deficit of 500 million shekels, universities will clearly have difficulties managing with these cuts.

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