Rector's Update | February 2021

8 February, 2021


Dear colleagues,

Hopefully our situation is improving. Below are brief updates on issues related to the pandemic, especially general updates, and a request for your suggestions on a number of topics.

1. Congratulations to the award winners. This year’s Israel Prize for Biblical Studies Laureate is our colleague Yair Zakovitch, from the Faculty of Humanities. Yair is a groundbreaking scholar in literary aspects of the Bible and biblical interpretation. Yair has succeeded not only in professional academic research, but also in publications geared to the general educated public, through a series of books (many of them co-authored with our colleague Avigdor Shinan) and public lectures. Yair also excels in exemplary citizenship. Among other things, he was among the initiators and founders of the "Revivim" program that operates at our University, training outstanding students to teach Bible and Judaism in the state educational system. Yair has also served in academic management positions at the University, including as Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Head of the Institute of Jewish Studies.

Congratulations to our colleague Yehudit Bergman from the Faculty of Medicine, winner of the Rappaport Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research. Yehudit is one of the world's leading researchers in the field of epigenetics (hereditable transmission of cellular memory) associated with DNA methylation, and the regeneration process, including in the field of intestinal infections. Yehudit has trained many outstanding researchers, Jews and Arabs, over the years, and she makes an excellent contribution to promoting equal opportunities for male and female scientists.

2. COVID-19 Matters—Teaching. The first semester ended successfully, and the exam period is in full swing. I ask you again to please show consideration for your students in light of the special circumstances, and to make sure that there is no significant difference in achievements in the exams this year as compared to normal years.

The second semester will open on Sunday, March 14, 2021. We hope to be able to hold classes in campus, immediately at the beginning of the semester or, if not, at least after the Passover holiday. We will publish the relevant decision no later than the end of February, in order to allow our instructors to prepare accordingly. Along with encouraging the entire University community to get vaccinated, we are exploring the possibility of adding various incentives in this regard.

This is an opportunity to thank you for your great investment in preparing online teaching in the first semester. One manifestation of this is the implementation of alternative assessment methods in most courses. Out of about 2,200 semester courses taken in the first semester (to which are added about 1,000 annual courses), only about 750 exams were held. This constitutes only about a third of all courses. In the rest of the courses, grades are being determined on the basis of papers, projects and other assignments. I ask you to consider continuing to use alternative assessment methods, as a full or at least partial substitute for the exam at the end of the course, both in the second semester and as a permanent matter. Also, please consider avoid using a multiple-choice test.

3. COVID-19 Matters—Research: The considerable investment required to conduct distance learning, including circumstances outside academic activity (such as the fact that kindergartens and schools have been closed for long periods, many people are ill or are obligated to be in isolation, etc.), poses a difficult challenge to the advancement of research during this period. Added to this are the difficulties arising from the complete or partial shutdown of activity in laboratories; the inability to conduct experiments with the participation of people; the negative impact of the inability to physically participate in international conferences and more. A major challenge is being faced by our untenured faculty members (given the significant increase in absorption of new faculty in recent years, untenured faculty members constitute about 30% of all senior academic staff members in the regular track: 280 faculty members out of 958 in total; 90 women and 190 men). On behalf of the University management, I would like to express our awareness of these unique difficulties facing many of our faculty members, and to update you on a number of measures designed to assist members of this group.

A) Taking into account the special circumstances, we will extend the trial period if the faculty member so requests. We decided not to establish a sweeping arrangement regarding an automatic extension of the trial period, in view of the great variability in the impact of the pandemic on research activity, and due to the adverse effects that such an extension may cause to some. The duration of the extension will be determined according to the specific circumstances. As a rule, it will be for one year (in addition to other extensions, due to giving birth, delay in the establishment of the laboratory and the like).

B) We decided to automatically extend by one year the period during which absorption budgets may be used. In addition, the possibility of alternative use of the budget items in the absorption budget will be exercised, depending on the circumstances. You may contact the R&D Authority in this matter.

C) The deans have been instructed to meet with the untenured academic staff on a regular basis, in order to jointly examine necessary adjustments pertaining to administrative tasks imposed on these faculty members, and in appropriate cases, to consider a temporary reduction in the teaching load (for those who have a full teaching load). Academic units will be able to receive special budgetary assistance to fund these accommodations. In addition, the University's management has allocated a dedicated budget to assist in funding research activities, mainly for the funding of scholarships, for untenured academic staff members. The deans will discuss with the faculty members the special needs created due to the special circumstances.

To all faculty members—please do not hesitate to inform the dean, and if necessary, me as well, about issues for which no suitable solution has been found, including aspects not directly related to academic activity.  We will do our best to assist.

In a related matter: Following an initiative by a number of faculty members,  the Human Resources Division has prepared a booklet on the subject of taking childbirth and parenthood leaves. The booklet includes detailed information on the subject. The information is available here (in Hebrew).

4. Preparations for the 2022 school year. Applications for next year opened on January 17, 2021, with a huge increase in demand. In the first two and a half weeks, the number of undergraduate candidates more than doubled compared to the number of candidates applying by the same date last year (about 1,900 this year, compared to about 800 last year). Most importantly, despite the increase in the admission criteria in quite a few departments, the number of those accepted is three times the one last year (about 1,300 compared to 450) and the number of students who hurried and already paid the admission acceptance advance has increased four times (500 students this year, compared to 120 students last year). There is also an impressive increase in applications for master's degree study at HUJI (an increase of about 50% compared to last year). This increase in demand is unusual compared to the situation at the other universities in Israel, where there is currently a far more moderate increase in the number of applicants.

This welcome increase in the demand to study with us poses a challenge, which stems from the Planning and Budget Committee policy. The PBC limits the number of students studying at each institution of higher education in Israel. Each institution was assigned, according to an unknown formula, a maximum quota of students for whom the institution was given a budget. The quota is not divided by field, but rather it is a comprehensive quota, for undergraduate and master’s degrees.

The number of students studying with us for undergraduate and master’s degrees in 2021 (about 19,400) is already above the maximum quota. In recent years, there has been a considerable increase in the number of students beginning to study with us (about 3,800 first-year undergraduate students in 2019, about 4,400 in 2020, and about 4,750 in 2021). Given that the demand for master’s degree studies is limited, the effective quota is in admitting undergraduate students. In order not to exceed the quota, we will have to admit fewer than 3,400 undergraduate students for the bachelor's degree in 2022. This is a result we do not intend to make peace with, for a variety of reasons, and we are working hard to attain an increase in the maximum quota.

By the way, the Hebrew University is disadvantaged in this matter compared to the other institutions. In the past, the lower quota was not effective, but now, the lower quota is hurting us badly. As detailed in the table below, while the quota allocated to us is 19,170 students, according to the proportional rate of our faculty members, the quota was supposed to be about 21,500.




Tel Aviv


Bar Ilan




Student quota
















Academic staff

















5. Supervision of graduate students: The Hebrew University’s student population includes about 2,500 students studying for a research master's degree (of these, about 900 students graduate each year), and about 2,300 doctoral students (about 350 doctoral students graduate each year). Supervising students is a key aspect of the academic activity of faculty members. In many cases, the possibility of mentoring excellent students is one of the main reasons why we, as faculty members, choose to serve as researchers at the Hebrew University. There are, of course, many challenges in this area, the main one of which is the funding of subsistence stipends. We are working to implement a "scholarship model" in the various academic units, to provide central assistance in funding scholarships. Such a program has already begun to operate in some of the units.  Alongside this, there are two academic challenges: one aspect relates to the relationship between the faculty advisor and the student. The second challenge is the length of time devoted to completing the thesis for both the advisor and the student. We have formulated an outline for a guideline in an attempt to regulate these two aspects. The draft outline is available here. I would be very grateful to you if you would review the draft and send me comments and suggestions.

Two accompanying remarks on this matter: First, in view of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have extended the deadline for submitting the thesis, until April 30, 2021. Second, according to the Council for Higher Education decision, starting in the next academic year, the master's thesis will be judged by at least two judges, at least one of whom is a senior academic staff member who is not from the thesis advisor’s academic unit. If there are no relevant experts in other HUJI units, a referee from another institution should be selected.

6. Appointment and promotion regulations. The University's appointment regulations (available here) regulates all aspects of appointing senior academic staff members, granting tenure and promotions. A committee appointed for this purpose, headed by the Vice-Rector, Lilach Sagiv, discusses necessary adjustments to the regulations, in light of the current practice and in light of a re-examination of various arrangements in it. We would be grateful if you could submit to the committee your proposals for changes and adjustments to the regulations. To submit your proposals please send a message to the committee coordinator, Ms. Irit Bohbot.

7.  Publications. The Library Authority is working to expand journals that publish articles that are open to the public (Open-Access), where Hebrew University faculty members can publish free of charge. The list of journals, which is updated from time to time, is available here.

The Truman Institute for Peace Studies at the Hebrew University recently published an atlas of maps of the Jewish-Arab conflict. The atlas is available, in three languages here.

I will be glad to receive your comments and suggestions.

Best regards,

Barak Medina, Rector


Draft, 5.2.21

Rules for Supervising Graduate Students at the Hebrew University

1. Purpose

These regulations are intended to regulate the rights and duties of the advisors and of the students conducting research under their supervision, in the writing of an MA/MSc and PhD thesis. The provisions in the present regulations are subject to the provisions of the Teaching and Learning Procedures and Regulations for Research Students. In any case of discrepancy, the provisions of the other regulations shall apply.

2. Research Topic and Format

A) The advisor and student will select a research topic that is appropriate for high-level research and aims to enrich human knowledge and to advance science. The research topics will be determined in a manner that suits a project of scope that is appropriate to the relevant field and duration of study, as stated in section 10 below.

B) The advisor and the student will agree on the work format in advance. Among other things, they will determine whether the submission of the work for judging will be conditional on the submission of excerpts from it for publication in an academic journal, taking into account accepted norms in the relevant research field.

C) The advisor will determine a schedule for completing milestones in conducting the research.

3. Advisor’s Commitments 

A) The advisor will work to train and guide the student as a researcher, as a member of the scientific community and as a contributor to society and to humanity. The advisor will serve as a model for ethical scientific practice for the student, while providing an intellectual, challenging and enriching environment.

B) The advisor will act in a way that respects the student, while listening to the student’s opinions and encouraging independence. If possible, the advisor will assist the student to attend scientific conferences and will assist the student to participate in other academic activities.

C) The advisor will give the student suitable time to consult with them, and will provide comments on drafts of the work within a reasonable period of time.The student and advisor must check in with each other about the research status at least once a month. In the case of experimental research, the advisor will be available on a regular basis to discuss the results of the research with the student, to plan additional research and to process research results for scientific publication (depending on the type of research).

D) The members of the accompanying committee (in the case of doctoral studies) will assist in advising on the formulation of the research plan and in assessing its suitability for research for a doctoral dissertation. The accompanying committee will continue to advise as the research progresses, and, if necessary, will assist to settle academic disputes between the advisor and the student.

E) In cases where a scholarship is expected to be awarded from the advisor’s research funds, the advisor will provide the student with a breakdown of the scholarship amount and its duration, as well as a breakdown of the scholarship amount to be awarded in case the student is awarded a competitive scholarship. The advisor will encourage the student to apply for scholarships from competitive foundations.

4. Non-research-related Tasks

A) The advisor will refrain from imposing on the student external tasks that are unrelated to the student’s research.

B) The advisor and the student may agree upon the student’s employment in additional academic activities (for example, as a  research assistant), for a fee, and subject to the rules regarding additional work set forth in the University Scholarship Regulations, provided that the additional work does not impair the advancement of the student’s research.

5.  Student’s Commitments

A) The student will dedicate the best of his/her time and effort to carry out the research work, while being attentive to the advisor's guidance. The student will act in close cooperation with the advisor, while respecting him/her, and act in accordance with the schedule set by the advisor and the student to complete milestones in conducting the research.

B) The student will act in accordance with the rules of scientific ethics and reporting.

C) The student will maintain a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation with other students.

D) The student will make the data collections and other types of research notes, as well as research materials and products, available for review by the advisor at all times. In the case of laboratory experimental research, the student will entrust the advisor with the said data collections upon completion of the thesis. 

6.  Consultation with Others

A) The student may consult with others, including members of the accompanying committee and other faculty members in any matter related to the research.

B) The student may contact the person in charge of advanced studies in their academic unit and the head of the Research Students Authority, in order to receive assistance in matters related to supervision in the research work.

7. Copyright and Intellectual Property

A) In scientific publications and lectures at conferences, the student’s name will be listed as author in the proper place for his/her contribution, in accordance with acceptable practice in the relevant field. If the piece being published does not bear the name of the advisor, they will be mentioned in the appropriate place, as is usually done.

B) The distribution of copyrights in scientific publications, patents and other intellectual property as well as in royalties derived therefrom will be made taking into account common practice in the field of relevant research, the advisor’s and the research student’s contribution to the research, and subject to the University’s regulations on this topic.

8. Hours Carrying out the Research

A) In the experimental sciences, a student who receives a full sustenance stipend will devote the best of their time and effort to carry out the research work. The advisor may not oblige the student to devote more than 42 hours per week to research activity (including teaching at the University), in the laboratory or outside it. The student should not be required to devote time to research activities on official days of rest, and the student's right to take at least 21 days off from research activities each year should be respected.

B) Students are entitled to take a leave during “parenting period,” in accordance with the rules specified in this matter in the University regulations.

9. Cessation of Supervision and Cessation of Stipend Payment

A) Cessation of supervision does not necessarily entail cessation of studies. A decision to terminate a student’s studies shall be made in accordance with the decision of the competent authorities at the University, and not by the advisor.

B) A student may switch to work under another advisor.

C) The advisor may terminate the instruction in accordance with the following procedure:

(1)  The advisor will give the student at least two months’ prior notice of the intention to discontinue instruction and specify the reasons for this, and will allow the student an adequate opportunity to respond to the notice.

 (2) The cessation of instruction does not necessarily entail a cessation of studies, but the continuation of studies is conditional on finding a new advisor. In cases where it is found that there is a justification for this, the person responsible for advanced studies in the academic unit may assist the student in finding an alternative advisor. In the case of a doctoral student, in exceptional cases, if justified, the head of the Research Students Authority may order (after consultation with a representative of the academic unit of the Research Students Authority) that the accompanying committee replace the advisor.

C) The advisor may stop paying stipends in accordance with the following procedure:

(1)  The advisor will give the student at least one month’s prior notice of the intention to terminate or reduce the stipend in accordance with the conditions agreed upon in advance, and will specify the reasons for this. The advisor will allow the student an adequate opportunity to submit her response, before the advisor decides on the matter.

(2)  A change in the duration of the stipend payment or in the amount of the stipend (compared to the pre-agreed arrangement between the supervisor and the student), which does not accompany the termination of the supervision, requires the approval of the person responsible for advanced studies in the academic unit.

10. Duration of Studies and Date of Submission of the Thesis for Evaluation

A) The advisor and the student shall act to complete the research and the writing of the research thesis in accordance with the schedule set in the regulations, i.e. for an MA/MSc thesis, up to five semesters from the beginning of the studies, and for a doctoral thesis, up to five years from the start of study. “Parenting period” or approved leave from studies do not count in the calculation of the duration of studies.

B) When determining the subject of the research and its scope the obligation to complete the research within the aforesaid time limit will be taken into account. As a general rule, unless otherwise determined in advance in the academic unit, the scope of the thesis will be as follows: The length of an MA/MSc thesis should be similar to that of one academic paper in the relevant field (although publication in a journal is not necessarily required); A doctoral dissertation should be on a scale similar to that of about three academic papers in the relevant field (although not necessarily required to be published in journals) or on the scale of a monograph, all in accordance with what is customary in the field of research.

C)  An extension of the duration of studies will be approved only in exceptional cases. The application for an extension of duration of study must be submitted to the person responsible for advanced studies in the unit. The application will be submitted jointly by the supervisor and the student and in case of disagreements between them, by each one separately.

(1)   MA/MSc degree studies in a research track (with a thesis) will last up to five semesters (two and a half years). The advisor will provide the student with an assessment of the status of the research progress no later than the end of the fourth semester of study. The person in charge of advanced studies in the unit may, upon the Dean’s approval, allow an extension of up to one semester at most to submit the thesis, if there are special reasons that justify it.  An extension beyond that requires the approval of the dean and the Rector, and will be granted only in exceptional cases, for reasons that must be documented.

(2)  Doctoral studies will last up to five years. The person in charge of advanced studies in the unit may recommend to the head of the authority for research students to extend the duration of studies by one year. The head of the authority may approve this request if there are special reasons that justify it. An additional extension requires the approval of the head of the authority for research students and the Rector, and it will be granted only in exceptional cases, for reasons to be documented.

D) If disagreements arise between advisor and student as to whether the thesis is ready to be submitted for judging, the advisor or the student may request that the matter be brought to the decision of the person responsible for advanced studies in the unit (in case of an MA/MSc thesis) or the head of the Research Students Authority (in the case of a doctoral thesis). In exceptional cases, if it is found that there is a special justification for doing so, the relevant body may order, after hearing the advisor and the student and consulting with the Dean (and also, in the case of a doctoral dissertation, after consultation with the accompanying committee and the unit representative of the Research Students Authority) that the work be forwarded to judging without the advisor's consent.

11. Evaluating the Research Thesis

A) The advisor will submit their opinion regarding the thesis within one month after completion of the research.

B) The advisor and the student will consult with each other regarding the nomination of candidates to evaluate the thesis, while honoring the request of the advisor or the student not to submit the thesis to the referees by a particular researcher.