Following several weeks of rumours and the failure of last minute negotiations with officials from the ministry of education, the Israeli student union staged a one-day strike at all universities and colleges as part of a protest over delays in the setting up of a committee to formulate a new fees structure.
In announcements placed in the national press, the union called for all students to stay away from classes in protest against "students and their families being turned into the milch cow of the state's higher education system".
The current agreement on course fees, following the recommendations of a previous committee, is nearing the end of its term and student leaders are anxious to enter what they expect to be protracted negotiations as soon as possible. The universities have been accused by the students of breaking the previous agreement by charging "black money" for course books, administration and other extras in order to raise additional revenue over and above the agreed fees.
The new committee, including representatives from student bodies, the universities, and the ministries of education and finance, is due to present its recommendations by the end of February 1996. However, disagreement over who should chair the committee has delayed the start of its work. Negotiations between the minister of education, Amnon Rubinstein, and union leaders broke down when the minister rejected the latest candidates for the chair put forward by the students.
The strike was timed to coincide with the opening day of the new academic year in most of Israel's universities, when it is more likely to cause irritation than disruption. Support has also come from the Israeli parliament's education committee.