Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE), the government accrediting body responsible for overseeing all universities and colleges in Israel, yesterday appointed me to serve on a committee that will re-examine the CHE’s policies regarding what in Israel are called “General Studies”—that is, BA degrees that are not directed toward achievement solely in a particular academic discipline. Most BA degrees in Israel offer an education only in a specific field such as medicine, law, physics, or computers (or in two such fields). What this means is that a negligible number of Israeli students will ever take a philosophy course as part of their undergraduate education if they are not getting a BA in philosophy. And the same is true for Bible, Zionist and Israeli history, political theory, literature, economics, Christianity and Islam, and so forth.
The committee to which I’ve been appointed will be re-opening the question of what kinds of BA degrees are permissible at Israeli universities and colleges that could allow students to pursue broader multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary studies of the kind available, for example, at American liberal arts colleges.
The committee’s appointment follows on the heels of the CHE’s landmark decision to accredit the Shalem Center to grant a liberal arts degree a few weeks ago. I headed the Shalem Center committee that designed the curriculum submitted to the CHE in March 2009.