A majority of students will pursue higher education degrees at colleges instead of universities during the 2014/15 year, according to figures released by the Council for Higher Education on Wednesday.
The CHE released the report ahead of the opening of the academic year at higher-education institutions across the country next week.
The 2014/15 year will open with some 310,000 students pursuing degrees at 65 higher- education institutions, including the seven research universities, the Open University, 36 academic colleges and 21 teachers colleges.
Of the students, 238,420 will be enrolled in bachelor’s programs, 59,455 will pursue master’s degrees, and 10,860 will study in doctoral programs.
These figures mark a 1 percent increase from the previous academic year, in which 307,020 students were enrolled in academic institutions.
The CHE said that during the past two decades the higher- education system underwent “dramatic changes.” The 1990s reflected a rapid increase in the number of students enrolled in higher education, with a growth average of 8.5% per year, leading to the development of numerous academic colleges to meet the increasing demand.
In contrast, the first decade of the 21st century saw a significant slowdown in the growth of the number of students pursuing academic degrees, with an average annual increase of 3.5% between 1999 and 2010.
Since 2010, growth in the number of students has continued to slow, with the current annual increase at 2.2%.
During the 1989/90 academic year, 55,250 students were in undergraduate programs, of whom 85% were at universities.
During the 2013/14 academic year, 192,710 students pursued undergraduate degrees, but only 34% did so at universities while some 66% studied at colleges – some 30% in publicly funded colleges, some 20% in non-publicly funded colleges, some 13% in teachers colleges and some 3% in academic colleges run by universities.
During the 2013/14 academic year, 123,650 students studied at universities, compared to 124,960 in 2012/13, said the CHE . According to estimates, 71,565 students will pursue undergraduate degrees at universities this year, a decrease of 1.5% from the previous year.
In contrast, academic colleges have seen an increase in students pursuing degrees, with 96,245 students enrolled in 2013/14, up 1.8% from the previous year.
The fields of study pursued by students have changed during the past two decades.
In 1996/97, 18.5% of students were studying for undergraduate degrees in the humanities, compared to 7.4% in 2013/14.
More students are now pursuing undergraduate degrees in engineering, with 12.5% studying it in 1996/97, compared to 17.7% in 2013/14. Business has also gained popularity, with 11.6% of students pursuing the field in 2013/14, compared to 6.7% in 1996/97.
The numbers of students pursuing undergraduate degrees in the fields of social sciences, biology, agriculture, education and medicine have remained relatively stable.
One of the major accomplishments of the higher-education system in the past few decades has been the expansion of accessibility to students in the periphery and among the underprivileged populations.
In 2013/14, some 24% of students in undergraduate programs studied in academic institutions in the North and South – 9.9% and 14.3%, respectively – compared to only 9.9% in 1989/1990.
The Jerusalem region has seen a steady decrease in its share of students. In the 1989/90 academic year, 22.7% of the nation’s students studied in the area, compared with 13.7% in 2013/14. Similarly, the Haifa and Tel Aviv regions have seen a decrease in students studying in institutions in these areas, with their shares falling from 21.7% in 1989/90 to 13.6% in 2013/14, and from 42.8% in 1989/90 to 31% in 2013/14, respectively.
The past two decades have seen an increase in the proportion of Arab undergraduates, going up from 7% of the total in 1995/96 to 13.1% in 2013/14.
In the 1990s, women comprised 40% of Arab students, while in the 2013/14 academic year 66% of Arab students were women, compared to 54% of Jewish students.
The CHE has devoted significant resources in the past few years to make higher education more accessible to the ultra-Orthodox population, and has established 10 new academic programs for the ultra-Orthodox to operate alongside the existing designated frameworks.