The majority of institutions for higher learning in Israel opt not to provide their students who serve in active reserve duty with academic credits, despite being permitted to do so by law, according to a new report released ahead of the new academic year.
According to the Students Rights Law, the Council for Higher Education can offer a number of allowances for students serving in reserve duty, including the ability to extend assignments, schedule additional test dates, and receive academic credits. Indeed clause 11(3) of the Council’s bylaws states that “an institution that recognizes social activity with academic credits is also able to recognize reserve duty with two academic credits.”
Israeli residents who have completed military service are compelled to provide reinforcements during security emergencies, as well as participate in annual service for training and routine security activities. Some reservists are assigned to the same units they had served in during their regular military service, and some are assigned to dedicated reserve units. For many years, reserve service was implemented under the “Defense Service Law,” but since August 2008 it has been implemented mainly under the “Reserve Service Law.”
Both laws provide specific solutions to reservists’ income and other workplace-related issues, as well as to conflicts borne by service during individuals’ academic pursuits.
The new report, published by the Zionist advocacy organization Im Tirtzu, found that despite this allowance, only 16 out of the 63 institutions for higher learning in Israel enable students serving in reserve duty the opportunity to attain academic credits for material they missed on account of their reserve service. The only universities who offer this consideration are Haifa University and the Technion.
The report also highlights the large disparity between the hours of social activity and reserve duty that students need to perform in order to receive the same academic credits. While the average number of annual hours of social activity needed is 38.5, the average number of annual hours of reserve duty needed is 525 (over three weeks) – a gap of more than 1,000 percent.
According to Im Tirtzu, the conflation of social activity and reserve duty is “fundamentally flawed, as it creates an artificial connection between reserve duty, which is mandatory in the State of Israel, and social activity, which is important but not compulsory.”
In addition, the report calls attention to the lack of uniformity among academic institutions in the amount of service that students are required to perform in order to receive credits.
For example, while the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya offers academic credits to students who serve 10 days throughout the year, Hadassah Academic College offers credits to students who serve 21 days throughout the year and Katzrin’s Ohalo College offers credits to students who serve a total of 70 days over a four-year period.
Im Tirtzu Chairman Matan Peleg, said in response to the findings that “it is very unfortunate that the majority of academic institutions do not feel that students serving in reserve duty are worthy of academic recognition. A society that does not know how to appreciate and compensate those who defend it harms its very fabric.”
“We are calling on the Council for Higher Education,” continued Peleg, “to initiate an extensive study on this issue and see to it that reservists are properly rewarded for their service.”