The campus of Tel Aviv University.
(photo credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)
Undergraduate student enrollment in Israel’s leading universities is in decline, according to a Central Bureau of Statistics report released on Sunday.
In 2015-16, there was a 1.7% decrease in the number of students enrolling for studies at one of Israel’s 63 higher educational institutions, with a combined 314,400 students. In comparison with the previous year, this accounted for a 0.8% increase in the number of new undergraduate students – an increase of 4.3% in academic colleges, but a decrease of 2.8% among universities.
According the report, which was released to mark the start of the new academic year, the 2014-15 academic year marked the first in some 10 years which witnessed a decline in the number of students overall pursuing degrees in higher education.
However this minor setback was reversed in 2015-16, as 3,600 additional students enrolled in higher education, the majority of whom were Arab students (3,200) as well as ultra-Orthodox (800), though the number of Jewish students overall decreased by (400).
The CBS report further found that in 2015-16, 60% of new undergraduate students were pursuing degrees in the social sciences or humanities, and 70% of masters’ students were pursuing degrees in the same fields. PhD candidates were primarily pursuing degrees in life sciences and mathematics (40.3%) and social sciences (24.8%).
In breaking down the findings by sectors, the report noted that in 2015-16, women comprised the majority, accounting for 58.6% of the student body population. Among the Arab population, this was even more pronounced, as 67.9% of students were female.
There has also been a significant rise in the number of Arab students pursuing higher education since 1999-2000. The findings indicated that only 9.8% of the undergraduate student body was comprised of Arab students in 1999/2000, though this figure increased to 14.3% in 2015-16. Regarding master’s degrees, this figure jumps dramatically from 3.6% in 1999-2000 to 11.7% in 2015-16, and from 2.8% to 6% among PhD candidates during the same time period.
With regards to the ultra-Orthodox population, there were 9,900 haredi students pursuing an undergraduate education in 2015-16, an increase of 8.8% from the previous year. The majority was studying in the fields of education and teacher training. Only 32.5% of the ultra-Orthodox were male students.
The Council for Higher Education (CHE) has in recent years made the integration into higher education of Arabs and ultra-Orthodox a priority.
As part of the CHE’s new multiyear plan announced in September, it will allocate some NIS 500 million each toward the integration of haredim and Arabs into academia as well as NIS 100m. toward the integration of Ethiopians and NIS 70 million towards the integration of more women into higher education.
“We will not give up on the level, depth, and quality of research, but we will also not give up on the researcher, on the integration of ultra-Orthodox, Arabs, Ethiopian immigrants and the periphery,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said upon announcing the new plan.