The Council for Higher Education is the government agency in charge of higher education affairs including teaching, science, and research. The Council operates pursuant to the Council for Higher Education Law 5718-1958, and is duly incorporated in terms of all liabilities, entitlement, and legal actions. The Minister of Education and Culture is the Council's ex officio chairman. The Minister is responsible for implementation of the Council for Higher Education Law and appoints the Council's Director-General. The Council has a five-year term of office. Its main powers are as follows:
Council Composition: The current Council has 25 members, including the chairman (the Minister of Education and Culture), and the chairman of the Planning and Grants Committee as ex officio members. At least two-thirds of the Council's members are prominent figures from the world of higher education, while the others include public figures, including a member of the bench, an industrialist, and a student representative. Council members are appointed by the President of the State on Government recommendation. It holds plenary sessions and operates primarily through both standing and ad hoc sub-committees.
The Planning and Grants Committee (PGC) is a subcommittee of the Council for Higher Education, whose composition is approved by the Government. The PGC has six members, including the chairman; four are senior academics in various disciplines, while the other two represent business and economics circles. PGC members are elected by the Council in a secret ballot for three-year terms, and can be re-elected once. An administrative staff handles the PGC's organizational, planning, and budget activities.
The Government has authorized the PGC to operate in accordance with the following principles and fulfill the following duties:
The universities' activities include both research and teaching. Unless research exists side by side with teaching at universities, the caliber of instruction will decline. Some 30% of the total R&D carried out in Israel (including the defense sector) and 45% of civilian R&D (in the natural sciences, medicine, agriculture, and engineering) is carried out at universities. In the humanities and social sciences, most research is carried out at universities, funded by the regular budget and research grants from outside sources (amounting to tens of millions of dollars).
Allocations to Research Funds: The PGC earmarks 4% of its resources to provide special support for research activities, primarily through the Basic Research Fund, the fund run jointly with the Atomic Energy Commission, and the fund run jointly with the Defence Ministry's R&D Unit.
Allon Grants for Young Scholars are intended to help universities hire outstanding young scholars. Some 20-30 three-year grants are awarded annually, each in an amount equivalent to the average cost of employing a lecturer or senior lecturer. Competition for these grants is based solely on individual excellence, with no university- or subject-related restrictions.
Computers: The PGC supports the development of computer facilities at universities in a number of ways, including the follows: contributing to the development costs of computer centers; contributing to the expenses of the IUCC (Inter-University Computing Center); contributing to the acquisition of super-computers.
Books and Journals: The PGC makes a special annual allocation for the acquisition of books and journals by university libraries, as well as for interlibrary cooperation, which includes the operation of a catalogue of periodical literature; the operation of an interlibrary loan service; the operation of an inter-university library network, linking the university's computerized catalogues (based on the Aleph library catalogue software), and permitting computerized cataloging, searches, and loans within and between all the libraries linked to the network.
Sources: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs