Greetings from the International Office at the Hebrew University

July 30, 2020

The past few months have been challenging and complex on many levels. Dealing with the new Coronavirus has involved, among other things, the cancellation of mobility programs, international conferences, study abroad tours, visits of delegations, and joint research activities with international institutions.

At the same time, the unprecedented situation has also opened a window of opportunity for new initiatives. Over the past few months:

  • We have expanded research collaborations with our partner institutions around the globe;
  • We have initiated development of online joint teaching platforms together with international partners;
  • We have enabled international students, as well as Israeli students participating in exchange programs, to continue studying at the Hebrew University online – from anywhere in the world;
  • We have stepped up our support services for our international student and researcher’s community.

We are currently preparing for the opening of the 2020-2021 academic year. We hope that we will be able to conduct regular teaching on campus and host international students, taking into careful consideration all the government health safety regulations and restrictions, including arranging self-isolation rooms for onboarding students who require quarantine on arrival in Israel. Concurrently, we are preparing for a more likely scenario, in which we will conduct at least a portion of the international programs online.

In this newsletter, we are pleased to share with you some of the innovations and the internationalization activities that took place in the course of the past year.

“Internationalization at Home” News

We have just finished collecting data on the University’s international activity over the past two years. We are glad to share with you that the University has shown an increase in all criteria of international activity, including number of post-doctoral fellows, number of international conferences held at HUJI, and the number and scope of international researchers visiting the various University units. As a result of the increase in our numbers, we were awarded the maximum budget this year in the funding model of the Israel Council of Higher Education.

Collaborations and International Research

The Coronavirus has undoubtedly presented us all with many challenges, however, it has also provided us with new opportunities for strengthening our partnerships and cooperation with our global partners. The International Office continues to promote collaborations with institutions and researchers around the world, together with the Authority for Research and Development. This year, we published nearly 20 new calls for research projects and workshops in collaboration with the University of Toronto, University of Illinois, University of Bonn, University of Vienna and Stockholm University. These new calls were published in addition to existing calls which were re-published this year, with the Free University of Berlin, University of Geneva, University of Melbourne, King’s College London, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, National Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Beijing, and other institutions in China, Taiwan, Singapore and more.

  • The Hebrew University – University of Toronto partnership has been launched. Four research groups have already received support as part of this partnership, for details click here.
  • 16 research teams submitted a proposal to a joint call for applications developed in collaboration with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, focusing on Covid-19 research.
  • 14 research teams submitted proposals to open calls in collaboration with the University of Illinois for applied research in the fields of medicine, agriculture, artificial intelligence (AI) and data science. This collaboration is part of the Hebrew University’s partnership with the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) in Chicago. Click here for more details.

Student Exchanges

When the coronavirus pandemic broke out around the world, about 50 HUJI students were already abroad or about to go abroad as part of the University’s spring semester exchange programs. About half of the students decided to return or stay in Israel in light of the situation, and about half of them decided to stay abroad or travel to the host country as planned. In light of the uncertainty regarding the continuation of the semester in the various institutions, and in order to reduce harm caused to students whose participation in the exchange program has been affected, the Hebrew University allowed students to study simultaneously in both institutions – the host institution abroad and the Hebrew University – by attending online courses. Many students reported on positive experiences despite the challenging circumstances.

Looking towards 2020-2021: Despite the existing uncertainty, some of the exchange programs planned for the first semester of the 2020-2021 academic year are currently proceeding as planned. The International Office is closely monitoring developments in the various destinations and updating the students accordingly. Certain institutions around the world have announced the cancellation of the exchange program in the forthcoming semester (fall/winter), or offer only the option of distance learning. Other institutions recommend that students postpone their arrival to the spring/summer semester.

Support Services During and After Lockdown

When the Coronavirus broke out in Israel, most of the international students at the Hebrew University chose to stay. The support services for international students, provided by the Rothberg International School, during the lockdown period and on an ongoing basis since then, have included ongoing communication regarding the Ministry of Health procedures, updates on visas, access to medical treatment and the University’s preparations during and after the lockdown. The International support services offered an emergency 24/7 hotline that helped handle dozens of inquiries every day.

Additionally, the Office of Student Life at the Rothberg International School maintained an increased presence of support services representatives in the dormitories, helping with food supplies provided to international students who had to be in self-isolation, and more.

An information website was set up, to provide information on activities and updates for international students. The website is updated regularly. Significant efforts were made to enrich students’ lives during the lockdown, for example through online activities such as zoom enrichment classes, exercise classes, online ceremony on the Holocaust Remembrance Day and more.

Short Courses at the Rothberg International School
Adapting Content and Teaching Methods to the New Situation

The Rothberg International School reacted quickly to the new and dynamic conditions, and began implementing online instruction for the student population attending the School about a week after the virus was discovered in Israel.

In addition, this summer the school will be launching four online summer short courses that will be transmitted to over 100 registered international students from the United States, Europe and Asia. About half of the students will participate as part of a collaboration with the University of Manitoba in Canada, in which the Hebrew University Faculty of Law is also a partner. The course focuses on decision-making during a crisis. In addition, the school will open this summer an online course in Spanish on the Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls for the Study of Judaism and Christianity, in collaboration with the Moriah Institute.

All courses have been adapted for distance learning: the planned tours have been converted to lectures delivered by on-site guest lecturers, directly from the field. The meeting times for these courses have been adjusted to morning hours in the USA, so that the lectures will take place during the afternoon in Israel. The courses will be recorded to allow international students from all over the world to view them.

Global Marketing
Establishing an International Marketing Contact Center

In February 2020, the International Marketing Division established an integrated marketing center, in collaboration with the Division for Marketing and Communications, servicing both international and Israeli students and providing information to those interested in studying at the Hebrew University. The International Center supports prospective international students from the initial inquiry stage to the admission stage and beyond, in coordination and collaboration with the academic units, the Student Administration Division and the Dean of Students Office. The Center is connected to a customer relationship management system, which enables effective tracking of marketing efforts. The Center’s representatives undergo extensive training, which includes information on all international programs and content related to sales, communication skills and more.

The Center provides service by telephone as well as response to inquiries via email, WhatsApp, live chat etc. The Center operates on Sunday-Thursday from 08:00-18:00.

Virtual Open Day for International Postgraduate Programs

Over 550 prospective students signed up for the Hebrew University’s first virtual open house. The event took place on May 24 and was preceded by an international campaign aimed to recruit prospective students for graduate degrees at HUJI. The campaign used social media and search engines, as well as extensive publicity carried out with the help of partners such as the Council for Higher Education (CHE), Masa Israel Journey, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the University’s Public Relations company in China.

Following the main open day, HUJI’s various graduate programs organized another eleven program-focused meetings for prospective students. Over 800 students from around the world attended the virtual open days. In addition, many more prospective students were exposed to the opportunities offered by the University by participating in about twenty other virtual fairs and meetings for prospective students organized by external parties, in which the University took part. These events were hosted by various bodies and organizations, including QS Quacquarelli Symonds, Masa Israel Journey, Nefesh b’Nefesh, and of course the Council for Higher Education (CHE), which organized the “Study in Israel” fair that was held for the first time this year, in collaboration with the Israeli universities. Inquiries from prospective students are being handled by the International Marketing Center.