Number of Arab students more than doubles in a decade

May 22, 2019 by

Figures released by Israel’s Council for Higher Education (CHE) show that the number of Arabs in higher education in Israel has more than doubled since 2007 and some progress is being made towards the goal of achieving the same share of students as the proportion of Arabs in Israeli society as a whole.

But there remains a significant gap to close at undergraduate level, nearly twice as big a gap at masters level, and at postgraduate level the share would need to more than triple to achieve the goal.

Arab students’ share of the total student population is now 17% at undergraduate level, 14% at masters level and 6.7% at doctoral level, compared to Arabs’ 21% share of the population as a whole.

The most significant sign of progress is that the number of Arab students in Israeli universities and colleges rose from 22,531 in 2006-07 to 48,627 in 2017-18.

Professor Yaffa Zilbershats, chairperson of CHE’s Planning and Budgeting Committee said: “The revolution of integrating Arab students into higher education is very good news for Israeli society in general and for Arab society in particular.”

According to data at undergraduate level, Arabs’ share of the total student population has risen from around 10% for the 2007-08 academic year to 17% – a rise from 21,534 in 2007-08 to 39,160 in 2017-18.

In addition, the number of Arab masters students grew by 228% and the number of Arab doctoral students increased by 115%.

Holistic approach

The CHE says its “holistic approach” for integrating Arab students in Israeli higher education includes the Rowad Program and Irteka Scholarships, which provide assistance both before acceptance to universities and colleges, and while enrolled.

The Rowad (‘Gate to Academia’) Program for high school students functions in around 45 regional clusters and exposes young people to available options in higher education.

It provides information, counselling and academic guidance, as well as support for relevant courses (eg preparation for the psychometric aptitude test), college tours and a higher education fair in cooperation with local educational institutions.

Special pre-academic preparatory programs are offered for Arab students. Assistance is also available in language enrichment (Hebrew and English), and academic, economic and social support for students enrolled in academic institutions is provided.

To make higher education more accessible to Arab students, 800 students in each class-year receive Irteka Scholarships. The undergraduate students are selected on the basis of their socio-economic situation and enrolment in ‘preferred fields’. Each scholarship is granted for the entire degree programme.

The CHE’s Planning and Budgeting Committee supports academic excellence and gives scholarships to outstanding Arab-Israelis who are studying for masters degrees, doctorates and post-doctoral fellowships.

Once students graduate, they face the challenge of finding employment. The CHE funds career centres at academic institutions to guide and integrate them into the labour market.

The PBC also supports the hiring of Arab staff by offering scholarships for the integration of outstanding faculty in teaching positions.

Professor Zilbershats said: “Thanks to a comprehensive, holistic programme, personal accompaniment and guidance, we have successfully opened the gates of higher education to Arab students, and removed barriers that have existed for decades. Academia is the key to reducing gaps, social leadership, employment and integration into Israeli society.”

According to the CHE, in addition to the rise in the proportion of Arabs pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, the number of female Arabs studying at Israeli universities and colleges has grown significantly. Today, 66% of Arab students seeking bachelor degrees are women, outpacing the rate of female Jewish students (50%).

Source: Number of Arab students more than doubles in a decade

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