Rector's Update | July 2020

July 27, 2020

 

Greetings,

I would like to update you on three topics: promoting equal opportunities, research grants awarded to University researchers and preparations for the 2020-2021 academic year.

1. The appendix below in Hebrew contains data and details of the steps that we are taking to promote equal opportunities among applicants and students at the University. The information deals with three groups: 1. Graduates of the ultra-Orthodox educational system; 2. Arabs; 3. Students "deserving of advancement" (students who are the first in their family to pursue higher education).

Please review the material and explore ways to further promote the absorption of students belonging to the above groups. In most units, we have no shortage of students and the quotas are being filled in any case. The importance of this activity stems from the fact that we aim to attract the best students in addition to our moral obligation to act to reduce the gaps in society and to ensure equal opportunities for those who grew up in conditions that are not optimal to prepare them for academic studies.

Many responsible bodies, including the staff in the Unit for Equal Opportunity within the Dean of Students’ office, the Diversity Unit within the Rector's Office, the President's Advisor for the Advancement of Equality for Arabs, The Division for Marketing and Communication, the five preparatory programs operating at the University and many others, work to promote equality, through general arrangements. At the same time, we hope that both academic units and faculty members will also advance initiatives. I will mention here two examples from among many: Prof. Doron Steinberg from the Faculty of Dentistry initiated the integration of female Haredi bachelor's degree students studying at Haredi colleges, into the Faculty’s research laboratories, and these students then continue towards master's and doctoral degrees at HUJI.  Likewise, Prof. Norman Metanis of the Institute of Chemistry in the Faculty of Natural Sciences works to promote the integration of Arab students into graduate studies in the experimental sciences. As mentioned, there are other examples of such initiatives, and we must add to them. Additional suggestions and ideas are welcome and they will receive both administrative and financial support. As stated, the data are presented in the attached document. Please take a look.

2. A second appendix provides an update on HUJI achievements and grants awarded by competitive research funds. This was an average year in terms of ERC Starting Grants and BSF Grants earned at HUJI. Alongside this, we enjoyed success in the number of ISF Grants earned this year. In summary: we went up from 109 individual research grants last year to 120 this year (which is still less than the peak of 127 individual research grants earned in 2018). The main increase this year was in the awarding of equipment grants for new researchers: In this category, we earned an impressive 21 research grants. This offers a strong indication of the high quality of our newly hired researchers. The table attached here illustrates our impressive improvement in the area of ISF Grants, with the hope that we will continue this trend in the coming years as well.  The data below is in millions of NIS, and the figures in parentheses indicate the percentage that this sum represents in terms of the total allocation for the given year.

ISF

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

HUJI

35.3  (23.2%)

33.2 (21.5%)

 34.9 (21.3%)

30.6 (17.6%)

 46.3 (23.3%)

TAU

31.7  (20.9%)

30.3 (19.6%)

36.7 (22.5%)

      36.5       (21%)

38.2  (19.2%)

Technion

20.8

28.9

29.0

33.7

35.6

Weizmann

17.0

17.5

19.8

21.7

23.3

BGU

23.0

19.8

20.3

24.8

26.1

BIU

14.3

12.0

13.6

17.7

16.2

Haifa

9.5

12.7

8.9

8.8

12.8

Total

151.7

154.4

163.3

173.8

198.6

 

Hadassah researchers were also successful in attaining ISF Grants this year– they were awarded a total of 19 research grants, about 50%(!) of the total number of grants awarded to those who are affiliated with a medical institution in Israel.

This is an opportune time to thank the dedicated staff of the HUJI Research & Development Authority for the excellent support they provide in submitting and managing research grants. Best of luck to our researchers in the advancement of research. As stated, the detailed data are presented in the appendix.

3. Preparations for the 2020-2021 academic year are in full swing. The letter that we sent to our students is attached here. Our goal is to conduct at least some of the classes on campus. The following is a summary of the plan, which is still being formulated in the various units. The academic units will distribute a detailed plan to their faculty members in the near future. The plan’s implementation will of course be conditional on the health situation in Israel and the relevant guidelines. Outline of the plan:

A) We will conduct as much as possible of the instruction for first-year undergraduate students on campus. In each department, at least 40% of the total number of study hours for the first semester of the first year will be taught on campus. This plan is based on the assumption that we will be required to adhere to the current "purple badge" provisions.

B)  We will also attempt to carry out instruction for classes meeting in small groups, in addition to first year courses. The units will determine a plan for the classes that can be held on campus, including practice sessions, seminars, lab classes and more. The goal is for each student to have at least one academic activity on campus.

C) During the first semester, Cornerstone courses will be conducted online.

D) We will likely be forced to conduct a significant portion of courses in an online format. During the summer, the academic units will prepare a detailed plan for adapting teaching to online instruction. Online teaching pedagogy workshops will be offered by the Teaching and Learning Unit starting in mid-August 2020 and instructors should attend these workshops. Further details will be provided later.

E) As part of the preparations for the courses to be taught in the first semester of the 2020-2021 academic year, we must start preparing for the first semester exams now. Each unit will determine a maximum quota of exams to be held on campus. In cases in which it is not possible for students to take the exam on campus, the exam will be administered in an online format instead.  Preparations will be required to determine a customized online exam format, including: preference for open-source exams, avoiding multiple-choice ("American" style) exams as much as possible, etc. For the rest of the courses, an alternative assessment format will be used: for instance, take-home exams, assignments during the semester, oral exams and more.

F) We should take steps to promote the partnership with our students. Some of our students are disappointed with us, for having to conduct exams on campus, because of the binary grade that they will earn and for other issues. It is necessary to take confidence-building measures, at the general level and in every unit.

4. Post Docs: Since traveling abroad for continuing education is currently challenging, we are announcing that Post-Doc scholars whose travel abroad has been postponed, can apply for a Post-Doc scholarship in Israel. A call for applications will be published in the next few days.

As stated, two appendices are attached to this letter: one regarding equal opportunities, and the other regarding research grants.

Wishing you a pleasant summer.                                                                                           

Best regards,

Barak Medina, Rector