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Report: Hebrew U Officials Weighing English as Official Language

By David Israel - 24 Kislev 5779 – December 2, 2018

According to Makor Rishon, a secret management meeting was held in recent weeks in which a new vision was set for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: in the coming years, the language of instruction in graduate and doctoral studies will become English, In a process that will change the character of the institution beyond recognition. This is a management decision that has not yet been approved by the university senate, board of directors and other authorized bodies.

The change will give tremendous priority to the absorption and advancement of faculty members from abroad over Israeli faculty members, argued one Hebrew U professor who spoke to Makor Rishon. The average lecturer whose English is not his mother tongue, if he or she did not live for several years in the US, their chances of being as fluent in English as they are in Hebrew are low. Such a lecturer, who would be facing students from around the world whose English is their mother tongue, would be in a position of inferiority in front of them.

Ironically, the Hebrew University, which was founded as part of the effort to establish Israel as a Hebrew-speaking state with a Hebrew academy, appears to be leading an opposite trend, thus severing academia from Israeli society. The result would be that the lecturers and the students start turning their full attention on academic enterprises abroad and the university would stop dialoguing with Israeli society.

It appears that the reason for the change is the Hebrew University’s desire to attract Chinese, Korean, Japanese and American students who pay in dollars while Israeli students pay in shekels and their tuition is lower.

In the end, those at Hebrew U who object to replacing Hebrew with English warn that the new policy would encourage brain drain, seeing as Israeli academics already focus their attention on publishing abroad, especially in US scientific journals.

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