Ariel is one of the largest settlements in the West Bank; a central point of contention between the Israelis and the Palestinians in a future Peace Agreement. There is an academic center that operates in the city since 1982, titled “The College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel”. It began as an affiliate of Bar-Ilan University, but later went its own separate way. In the last three years, several parties have been attempting to grant the college of Ariel a University status. Recently, the college even changed its official title to “Ariel University Center of Samaria“.
However, this move wasn’t authorized by the Ministry of Education nor by the Council for Higher Education. Today it was announced that these two bodies officially revoked the academic center’s University status by refusing to review any correspondence sent to them which carries the unapproved title. The practical meaning of this is that students who graduate from Ariel won’t be recognized as degree holders elsewhere in the country.
Currently, there are only 6 institutions in Israel which carry University status, while all the rest are being regarded as Colleges. The title has significance when it comes to the flow of funds from the governments and from private donors, as well as having impact on the prestige of the graduates’ degrees and the graduatesâ€™ prospect of finding good jobs.
Now, the Ariel affair is more of a political battle than simply a matter of bureaucracy. First, bestowing a certain college with a University status is a unique and rare occasion in Israel, and it happens once in many years. Therefore, granting â€œthe College of Judea and Samaria in Arielâ€ a University status would mean that the prospects of the government establishing a new university in the Galilee (a northern part of Israel) will greatly diminish. And such a northern university has long been in demand. Moreover, giving Ariel what it wants would send a clear political message that Israel considers Ariel to be an integral part of the country, damaging both the peace talks and Israel’s diplomatic position in the world.
In response the aforementioned announcement, students in Ariel told the media that “this is a declaration of war made by the Ministry of Education”.
Picture by CNN