Effects of Corona on science and research: higher education in Israel

Verena Shiffermann, Director of the DAAD Information Centre Tel Aviv in Tel Aviv (Israel)

The Israeli higher education landscape in times of COVID-19

All Israeli universities have already switched completely to distance learning at the beginning of March – the summer semester began this year in the first week of March 2020 – without long lead times; currently, the relevant bodies and committees at the universities are dealing with the question of how the final examinations, which are due in two months, can be implemented this academic year.

In order to financially support students who are in need due to the crisis with regard to dormitory rents and tuition fees, the universities are currently establishing their own working units; the Council for Higher Education is also to provide funds for this purpose.

Students who carry out system-relevant activities alongside their studies or students with small children are given more time for examination work and international students have been granted an automatic visa extension until the end of June 2020.

Currently, the Planning and Budgeting Committee is setting up a program that is exclusively dedicated to the promotion of COVID-19 research projects. Co-financed by private foundations and accompanied by the National Science Foundation as project sponsor, the financial volume of this programme is over 14 million NIS (over 3.5 million euros) and is intended to support up to 30 projects for a maximum of two years. Projects in the fields of immunology, virology, pharmacology, epidemiology, molecular and cell biology as well as artificial intelligence, robotics and engineering can be funded under the program.

There is a test laboratory at the Tel Aviv University (TAU) with 2000 tests per day and a volunteer initiative with 170 students of TAU collaborating in 12 hospital laboratories. Furthermore, we have 600 PhD students from TAU, the Weizman Center and other institutions who also assist in laboratories of hospitals.