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Piled Higher, Deeper

Israel’s new political star in education mess

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Yair Lapid. (Avi Ohayon/GPO via Getty Images)

I have a Ph.D. Here’s how I got it: I completed my bachelor’s degree, then my master’s, and then enrolled in a doctoral program and met all of its requirements.

This may sound obvious. It’s not, at least not in Israel, where it was revealed last week that TV star turned political hopeful Yair Lapid was admitted to Bar Ilan University’s Ph.D. program without ever having received a BA. After Haaretz broke the story, the university claimed that it had admitted Lapid to its prestigious program in commentary and culture based on “his literary and journalistic achievements.” Israel’s Council for Higher Education launched an investigation into the affair, calling Bar Ilan’s reasoning “unsatisfactory” and implying that the decision to admit Lapid, sans the appropriate credentials, contradicts the basic tenets of academia. Today the CHE ruled that Lapid’s acceptance into the program was invalid.

This may sound like a tawdry scandal. It’s not. It speaks volumes about the character of the contender most polls predict will sweep a sizable chunk of the Knesset’s seats in the next elections. It also tells you all you need to know about the state of affairs in Israel these days, when a previously respectable university is willing to bestow its highest honor on an individual not because of his scholarship but because of his celebrity.

But why am I complaining? If Lapid was admitted as a doctoral student because he was an author and a journalist, then I—an author and a journalist who already has a Ph.D.—should be appointed university president. Bar Ilan, your move.

Council for Higher Education Rejects Lapid’s PhD Acceptance
[Israel National News]
Israeli university probed for accepting Lapid as doctoral student [Haaretz]
Doctoral candidate Yair Lapid accepted without B.A. [Haaretz]
Earlier: Israel’s Great White Hope

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“Tells you all you need to know about the state of affairs in Israel these days…” Wow, you PhDs really are smart!

I have to say, I don’t really agree with you. I know at least one person who was admitted to a masters program at Harvard without a BA. Several universities have programs where you write papers based on your work experience and they give you a BA in return. You can also take CLEP exams and if you score high enough many universities will give you college credit towards a degree.

The point of the above is that work experience can sometimes be equivalent to academic work.

I don’t know enough about Lapid’s journalistic track record. However, I do know that investigative journalism can involve intensive research. If he has been doing it for years, and also submitted some sort of bibliography showing that he had read a significant number of books and articles that allowed him to put his journalistic work into a theoretical context, I can imagine them saying “yes, you can do PhD level work”.

It isn’t clear to me why they concluded he hadn’t been accepted correctly. Did they feel he didn’t show enough evidence of being able to do master’s level work or do they only care about the degrees?

Lapid has also published quite a few books which have been translated into foreign languages. Shoot from the hip Liel, like the 972 article, sloppy research. How is your PhD ? I hope better researched than this piece.
Where did you study?

Hmm send off a few box tops for a university degree? Sounds good to me!

Binyamin in O says:

Why is Anthony Bourdain running for the Knesset?


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Piled Higher, Deeper

Israel’s new political star in education mess

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