Thanks to a contemporary educational process, a campus built from the ground up, and a dramatic rise in student numbers, Prof. Ami Moyal, president of Afeka – the Academic College of Engineering in Tel Aviv, has set out to realize a vision: A relevant academia that instills a broad skillset including not only knowledge, but also the proficiencies, tools, perspectives, and values for the job market and for life.

We are witnessing rapid changes that require us to think, exercise judgment, combine ethical and moral considerations, and initiate and prepare as quickly as possible at the personal and national levels. The lively debate currently surrounding AI, from a great promise to apocalyptic portents, is just one example. For academia, whose roles include training the human capital for this dynamic world and equipping it with the tools for success, this is an especially complex challenge.

We’ve tried to understand why changes are required throughout the educational continuum, from kindergarten to academia. We’ve examined the changes involved and how, if at all, they are being enacted. We understood that the core of this change is the ever-greater weight of required skills versus knowledge. We’ve spoken to the president of Afeka, Prof. Ami Moyal, about this vital developing issue and his view of its implications.


Prof. Ami Moyal, president of Afeka – the Academic College of Engineering in Tel Aviv. Photo: Afeka PR

Technology is always evolving, the world never sleeps. Yet you identify a dramatic change in this point in time.

“In recent years, we’re experiencing an exponential leap in multiple technological axes that affects all areas of life. The latest and most distinct manifestation is the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, which gave full access to AI to anyone who wants it. The adoption rate, to the first million app users and now into the hundreds of millions, was the fastest in history. It’s still difficult to gauge the scope of its influence, certainly in the modern job market, and thus also in the systems meant to train those who’ll join the job market. It will completely transform learning processes.”

What is the concrete effect on you, in educating engineers?

“Nowadays, we’re required to train a different sort of alumni as engineers for the industry. The emphasis isn’t only on providing mathematical, scientific, and engineering knowledge. You must instill personal proficiencies such as teamwork, effective presentation skills, self-learning, and critical thinking, as well as ethics, broad education, and languages. Over time, the weight of these things within the skillset required for success only grows. That is why the entire educational process needs to change, in terms of both pedagogy and the educational products. We already reached this understanding five years ago, and since then we’ve been on a journey. We’ve revamped the entire curriculum, the learning spaces, and the learning experience – including extracurricular activities that enrich it. We foster a culture of innovation with broad collaboration within the academia and industry ecosystem, through a holistic educational process that’s meant to both train students for high tech and help their personal development. We have the right and the duty to build a relevant educational process.”

You mentioned learning spaces, which begs a mention of the new campus you’re building.

“The truth is that it’s more than building a campus for us, it’s realizing a dream. We’ve received the rare opportunity and privilege, as an academic institution, to build from the ground up, together with the City of Tel Aviv and the Planning and Budgeting Committee, a modern campus that will support a new pedagogy, include new-concept learning spaces, and provide added value far beyond degree studies.”

Prof. Moyal lists three goals for the Yad Eliyahu campus, set to begin construction soon: Training a much larger number of engineers, with the institution’s physical area enabling it to grow from about 3,300 to 5,000 students; being an enabler for a different educational method by building innovative work, teaching, and learning spaces as a realization of the vision; and an urban socioeconomic mission, by the mere fact that thousands of students and hundreds of faculty and administrative staff will be relocated to southeastern Tel Aviv. “This will no doubt create major social impact. The big dream is to build an entire ecosystem around the new campus, combining industry, education, a neighborhood, NGOs. Students driven by the common goal of a relevant, experiential learning process. To my mind, we’re not just offering a degree as an agglomeration of courses, but a comprehensive, enjoyable, and empowering educational experience that enables both students and faculty to realize their dreams.”

A view of the campus square – Moshe Dayan. Photo: Tsionov Vitkon Architects

You’re describing a process with implications beyond the institution that you lead, perhaps beyond academia itself.

“Certainly. Our accumulated worldview and experience is summed up in the Afeka Framework, which can actually be adopted for changing any educational process. This must start by defining the end-product – in our case, the desired image of the engineering alumnus or alumna – with coordination and buy-in from the next link in the chain, which for us is the job market, and for high schools is the military and academia. Only after defining and agreeing where you’d like to end up, can you get down to the actual work of change. This can and should be applied at every level, starting at kindergarten, and then building a national educational continuum that works together, in sync, speaking the same language.”