(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The plenum of the Council of Higher Education (CHE) is expected to approve on Tuesday a proposal to establish a state-sponsored higher academic institution in an Arab town in northern Israel.
“For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, we will establish a general academic college in an Arab town. This is historic for the Arab sector and it’s historic for the State of Israel,” Education Minister and CHE head Naftali Bennett said at the opening of the Bayit Yehudi faction meeting on Monday.
The expected vote follows a decision made last year by the CHE’s planning and budgeting committee recommending the establishment of a budgeted academic framework in the North catering to the Arab population.
“We continue to work on behalf of all the citizens of Israel – Jews and Arabs as one. There is no doubt that the Arab public lacks the academic framework to meet the demand and to promote equality in Israeli society,” Bennett said.
Arab students in the North have limited or no options for pursuing higher education in areas close to their homes, leading many, especially female students, to choose not to pursue undergraduate degrees. To date, there are only two colleges operating within Arab towns, both in the field of teacher training.
The new institution aims to correct this and provide a response to the growing needs of the Arab population in the region.
“I want to say here clearly: There is no reason to send young Arabs to study in Hebron or in Arab countries.
Sometimes this results in radicalization and the right thing is that Israelis will learn in Israel. It is good for them as individuals and it is good for all of Israeli society,” Bennett said.
The new college will seek to focus on areas of study with potential for employment, which, according to the CHE, will be a vital platform for further integrating the Arab sector in the workforce and into society.
The CHE clarified that it would not open a new academic institution to address this growing need, but would rather call on higher education institutions already recognized and funded by the state to collaborate in the establishment of the new college.
As such, the CHE seeks to open either a new campus branch of an existing recognized and budgeted university in an Arab town or to turn one of the two existing colleges for teaching in the Arab towns into a general academic college.
Jafar Farah, the director of Haifa’s Mossawa Center - The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post that, while the Arab public welcomes the decision, more than 10,000 Israeli Arabs have already left to study abroad in places such as Jordan or the Palestinian territories.
If all of these students would study in the country, estimated Farah, their tuition payments could finance three Arab academic institutions.
“Bennett missed the train,” he exclaimed.
Farah also mentioned the Arab demand for an Arab university in Nazareth, “and not another college that has no identity. Last year, Bennett closed an academic institution in Nazareth and now he offers a small college,” he complained.