Derby University has been denied a licence to award degrees in Israel. It has to wait for the Israeli regulatory authority, the Council for Higher Education, to be satisfied that the university's provision meets new legal safeguards against the growing number of "cowboy" operations in the country.
Derby's vice-chancellor, Roger Waterhouse, has just returned from a crisis meeting with the council in Jerusalem, and has agreed to submit a "strategy statement" within the next week in an attempt to address "several aspects" in which Derby's courses are thought to fall foul of new legal requirements for accreditation and licensing.
Mehemia Levtzion, chairman of the council's planning and budget committee, told The THES: "We can not as yet give the university a positive reply to its request to have a licence to operate in Israel. The document we have requested will be the starting point for the next round of discussions."
Professor Levtzion said that Derby's management degrees, which have been provided in partnership with INTER College, Tel Aviv, since February 1997, "do not comply with several articles of the law". But he would not confirm details.
"We never intended to go public," he said. "These are all legal matters. We have had some very useful discussions and we will hold our guns. There is no final decision."
Derby has fallen foul of an amendment last year to Israel's Higher Education Act of 1958. Amendment 11 rules that any institution not directly accredited by the council has to apply for a licence to award degrees. Those that already hold licences, like Derby, must reapply under tighter criteria.
Professor Waterhouse said: "Many foreign universities have been moving into Israel to satisfy a market for vocational higher education, but there have been a lot of cowboy outfits that are not selling a good product, and there was no law regulating their activities.
"There is now a very sensible new law to register provision and clamp down on cowboys, and that is what is going on. As part of our application for a licence, the council picked up on a number of queries about the detailed requirements of the law."
He said the issues were "technical", and related to how the university admitted students and how "we ensure proper controls are in place".
One aspect of the new law is that students without the full high-school leaving certificate can be admitted on to degree courses only as mature students, legally defined as those over the age of 30. Derby had admitted such students under the age of 30, when it was legal, but now says it has changed its policy.
Professor Waterhouse defended the integrity of Derby's courses. "We think we are doing it very, very rigorously indeed.And that view is supported by the British Council. The Israeli Council has asked for clarification of a number of issues, and we are giving it to them. I do not anticipate any difficulty."