The Israeli system of higher education has been overtaken by events, and in response the University of Haifa has been generating in effect a quiet, almost unseen revolution.
Until recently, Israel could count just seven universities, these having a monopoly on higher education in the country. Today this is no longer the situation: there are now some 50 different institutions--the original research universities, regional colleges, private colleges, and branches of foreign universities--offering academic degrees of one sort or another. This multiplicity of institutions means, of course, that Israeli students have more options than they did in the past--and more opportunities, too.
The new situation, though, also challenges us, the universities in general and the University of Haifa in particular, very directly. In short, we must now compete more than ever before. One of the ways in which our University is meeting this challenge to be attractive to potential students as a desirable research and learning university is to improve the quality of our services. Indeed, this is a precondition for any academic development. And herein lies the quiet, unseen revolution.
The physical development of the campus in projects like the new Rabin Complex is striking. But organizaational development is certainly less visable. Organizationally we have had to move from thinking like a small grocery store to acting like a large supermarket--in other words, better coordination of our many divisions. This has involved decentralizing some of the processes and delegating increasing authority and responsibility to more people in the organization.
It has meant devoting special effort to computerizing the daily work of the University, incorporating new and wide-ranging logistical systems with multi-functional capability (ordering, purchasing, inventory control, distribution, budget control). It has necessitated our reexamining and elevating the managerial tools and level of our organization in order to make the system more efficient and to save on costs of all kinds.
As I said, this organizational restructuring is not eye-catching like our new buildings. But it is essential for the structure, development, and financial well-being of the University. The unprecedented student body increase is behind us, and we must now digest this growth internally. The economies of scale have certain advantages, but by themselves are not sufficient. There was need--made all the more acute by the new confrontation with competition--for appropriate internal action to be able to offer the best fruit and satisfy the customer, if I may return to the supermarket analogy.
The quiet revolution that the University of Haifa is undergoing in restructuring the organization and adapting it to the exigencies and technology of the 21st century will help us increase our competitive standing in Israeli academic life. In the end, this revolution will assure better services to both students and researcher-scholars because we shall then be able better to concentrate our efforts and resources on academic development. - Yehuda Hayuth