The Israeli economist Dan Ben-David has posted a couple of articles about the exodus of Israeli researchers – especially within economics and computer science – to the US. Ben-David argues that taxation and security play minor roles (and why would economists and computer scientists be especially sensitive compared to chemists, physicists or philosophers?) and points to some factors in Israeli education and research policy:
While the number of teaching and research personnel per 100,000 people in the States rose by 29% from 1976 to 2005 (Figure 1), this measure fell in Israel by 35% between 1978 and 2005. Even the addition of non-research academic institutions in recent years did little to change this overall picture. By 2005, the number of teaching and research personal in all of Israel’s institutions for higher learning fell to a level 40% below America’s … As the number of academic positions per capita in Israel was being reduced, the number of students soared.
So, fewer jobs and more students per teacher. Economic efficiency takes its toll over time. Sound familiar?
Israeli universities are much more dependent on government funding than are public universities in America. In 2000, tuition and private contributions accounted for roughly the same share of revenues in both countries, less than a fifth for the former and just over 5% for the latter. On the other hand, over two thirds of the higher education income in Israel came from the government, compared to 51% in American public universities. The resultant increased dependency of universities in Israel on the state of the economy, and on the whims of political currents and undercurrents, has considerably reduced the degrees of freedom available to them in the realm of planning, growth and emphasis.
This, I would say, is a general problem outside of the US: For a number of reasons, the resources available to higher education from sources other than the state are limited (note that Ben-David separates “gifts, donations and contracts” from “other sources”, and I would like to see those described in more detail) and their access – or lack thereof – to financial and budgetary instruments a half-way house between an open market system and the old type of “civil servant” academy.