Rector's Update | December 2020

 

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to send you this update on various issues.

1. Preparations for the second exam period during COVID-19. The first semester will end on January 22nd, 2021, and the exam period will begin immediately thereafter. It is likely that we will not yet be able to hold all exams on campus. In light of this, we are preparing to administer online exams alongside on-campus exams. Numerical scores will be assigned. The exam administration plan is attached (Appendix A). The main points of the plan: We will hold as many exams on campus as possible. During the coming week, we will determine the list of exams that will take place on campus, provided there is no change in the Ministry of Health regulations. Special arrangements have been established regarding the manner in which these on-campus exams will be administered, as well as arrangements regarding those students who will not be able to sit for the exam on campus. The rest of the exams will be held online, in a format to be determined by each unit and published by December 31st, 2020.

Learning at the University is going well. Instructors have been making special efforts under these trying circumstances, and in many cases, the quality of teaching has increased thanks to the use of digital means and an increase in the number of assignments during the semester. That said, there is a real concern that the quality of learning has been impaired due to social distancing. The students’ difficulties in meeting and studying together impairs the quality of learning. In addition, many students face anxiety created by the pandemic, and deal with economic hardships due to the high unemployment rate among the student population. We must take this into account when preparing for the exam period. As in the previous semester, it is not appropriate to lower the academic level required on the exam. Rather, special efforts should be made in preparing students for the exam. We recommend that instructors hold special review sessions, during which students can practice solving exams from previous years; encourage students to meet in joint study groups; and avoid, as much as possible, the use of copying prevention measures that may impair students' ability to express their skills properly. Many thanks again for your extraordinary efforts.

2. More about teaching during the COVID-19 period. Many students have avoided coming to campus during this period, and do not meet with their peers. This issue came up repeatedly in my meetings with students for whom I serve as their personal mentor. All of the students I mentor visited the campus for the first time this semester when they came to meet with me, and none of them had physically met any other students this semester. I hope these meetings have encouraged them to meet more often on campus. To me, the severity of the situation caused both distress and a sense of failure.

3. Last week, we sent out to the academic units a summary of data dealing with several aspects of the units' achievements. One report, prepared by a team led by the Dean of Students, deals with student satisfaction. The report includes detailed data, which presents a complex picture: Overall satisfaction continues in the upward trend that we have been seeing for several years; yet satisfaction with specific aspects is not uniform, and we need to improve in many areas. A notable aspect is the positive correlation between improvement in conduct (most of the efforts have been made in raising the academic level of learning) and the significant improvement in the degree of student satisfaction.

A second report, prepared by the Strategic Planning Unit in the President’s Office, summarizes the units’ achievements in the Budgetary and Planning Committee’s teaching and research model, in comparison with their achievements in previous years and the achievements of similar units in other institutions in Israel.

The data relating to the University as a whole are attached to this letter (Appendices B and C). As mentioned, detailed reports, specifying additional data regarding each department were provided to the heads of the units. The units’ leaders were asked to distribute the two reports to all faculty members in the unit, and to prepare a report on the main findings that can be gleaned from these reports, especially regarding long-term trends. They were also asked to detail the main steps to be taken in order to continue to improve.

4. Brief update on achievements in the research field. The Israel Innovation Authority has published a first call for proposal for funding for projects in the field of Bioconvergence. This is a field that incorporates research in biology with engineering, artificial intelligence, computational biology, physics, nanotechnology, materials science and more. Led by Yissum, 11 projects were submitted by HUJI researchers (out of 39 projects submitted from throughout Israel, about 28% of the submissions), and 7 projects were approved for funding (out of 11 approved in total, about 63% of the projects approved!).

We have seen an increase in submissions for competitive research funds, which is also expected to lead to an increase in research grant awards. The limited resources and growing needs makes the competition harder from year to year, and University researchers’ great commitment to submitting proposals is admirable and well worth mentioning. In the field of personal research grants from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF), University researchers submitted 355 applications this year—a new record for the University. Many thanks to the excellent staff of the HUJI Research and Development Authority’s Israel Section, who worked especially hard during the past several weeks. Below are the main data:

 

ISF

2018

2019

2020

2021

submitted

won

share

submitted

won

share

submitted

won

share

submitted

Social Sciences, Education, Business Administration, Social Work, Law

78

30

0.38

82

22

0.27

98

30

0.31

109

Humanities

52

32

0.62

58

25

0.43

44

22

0.50

54

Life Sciences (Life Sciences, Medicine, Pharmacy, Agriculture)

87

39

0.45

92

40

0.43

102

36

0.35

105

Exact sciences (physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, Earth)

64

26

0.41

59

23

0.39

77

33

0.43

87

Total

281

127

0.45

291

110

0.38

321

121

0.38

355

                       
We have also seen an increase in the number of submissions to EU research funds (ERC), which has not yet been translated into an increase in the number of awards, but continues to reflect our University’s leadership. Here, too, is an opportunity to thank the excellent staff of HUJI Research and Development Authority’s Europe Section, which works in a professional and dedicated manner and assists in the preparation of the many research proposals. The increase in the number of proposals is illustrated in data in Consolidators grants (7 to 12 years after doctoral degree completion)

ERC Consolidators 2020

Applicants

Passed 1st stage

Recipients

Total

Hebrew U

24

8

3

3/24

Tel-Aviv

24

12

6

6/24

Weizmann

12

7

4

4/12

Technion

10

7

2

2/10

BGU

3

3

0

0/3

Bar-Ilan

11

4

2

2/11

Haifa

5

0

0

5/0

 

Here are the main data for recent years regarding ERC grants (winners of 2020 Advanced grants will be published in April 2021):

ERC

2018

2019

2020

Starting

Cons

Advanced

Synergy

Starting

Cons

Advanced

Synergy

Starting

Cons

Adv

Synergy

Hebrew

7

2

3

1

7

2

3

0

6

3

 

1

Tel Aviv

4

6

3

0

8

4

0

0

8

6

 

1

Weizmann

5

11

1

1

6

6

2

1

3

4

 

0

Technion

-

-

-

-

8

0

0

0

1

2

 

0

Ben-Gurion

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

3

0

 

1

Bar Ilan

2

0

0

0

4

1

0

0

2

2

 

0

Haifa

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

 

0

 

5. In approximately a year and a half, the National Library will move to its new location, next to the Government Offices, and the Library building will return to the University’s ownership. The President has appointed an advisory committee to examine possible uses of the Library building. I turn to you, on behalf of the advisory committee, to receive your suggestions on how best to utilize this unique building. The building was erected in 1961 and is situated in the center of the Safra Campus in Givat Ram. The building has been declared a historic preservation site, and it includes the Ardon stained-glass windows. The building's area is approximately 25,000 sqm and includes three underground floors and three floors aboveground. You can read more about the history of the building in the article by Amit Naor here (in Hebrew). Please send your suggestions to the Rector's Office (rector @ savion .huji.ac.il) by January 6th, 2021.

Wishing you good health, continued good deeds!

Best,

Barak Medina, Rector