Tel Aviv tackles deficit crisis

June 21, 2002

Tel Aviv University has launched a four-year downsizing plan to deal with a 161 million shekel (£22 million) deficit. The plan has been approved by the planning and budgeting committee of Israel's council for higher education despite a strike by university administrative staff who objected to a reduction in their salaries to help offset the deficit.

Itamar Rabinovich, Tel Aviv's president, said: "The main causes of the increase (in the deficit) were substantial cuts in government allocations, an income reduction from the university's endowment funds, an incremental built-in increase in expenses (budgetary pension, administrative salary agreement) and the effect of the security crisis (drastic reduction in the income from students from abroad).

"The university decided in autumn 2000 on an extensive downsizing and economising programme, the main purpose of which was to reduce the operating budget by 10 per cent and adjust it to fit the current Israeli reality - security crisis, economic recession and budgetary reductions."

The programme was prepared with the assistance of an external consulting firm and is predicted to save approximately 142 million shekels by the next financial year.

Professor Rabinovich added: "We ask only two things of the state: let us teach the number of students we are capable of teaching and give us our proper share of the higher education budget."

Nehemia Levtzion, chairman of the the planning and budgeting committee, wrote to education minister Limor Livnat: "I share the conviction of the president of (Tel Aviv) university that the university may even be strengthened at the end of this crisis, since the academic level and freedom will be maintained and academic development will continue."

In 2001, the higher education budget was reduced by 437 million shekels, and in 2002 it was reduced by 225 million. Professor Levtzion said the committee was in the process of examining recovery plans in all universities.

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