New academic year opens Sunday

About 250,000 Israeli students enrolled in university and college programs.

givat ram 298 (photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
givat ram 298
(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
Contention among student representatives surrounds the opening of the new academic school year, which will take place on Sunday. On Thursday, the chairs of Israel's various student organizations strongly criticized Asaf Segev, the chairman of the National Student Association, following a letter Segev sent Wednesday to Education Minister Limor Livnat. In his letter, Segev told Livnat that the NSA would be willing forego the implementation of the Winograd Report, which in 2001 recommended a 50% decrease in academic tuition fees over a period of five years (so far, tuition has been decreased by only 26%). According to Segev's letter, the NSA is willing to consider an alternative program, which would also address the budgetary difficulties of the country's universities in addition to allowing increased access to higher education. Earlier this year, Livnat's announcement that she intended to appoint a new committee to examine the crisis in higher education, and which would annul the conclusions of the Wingrad Report, led to a countrywide struggle staged by student organizations in order to increase the budget for higher education. Gal Dai, the chairman of the Israel Students' Association, was one of the student activists who expressed their criticism of Segev's letter on Thursday, as did other leaders of the student struggle earlier this year and in previous years. A counter letter sent Thursday to Livant by the Organization of College Students stated that Segev's letter did not represent the opinions held by other student associations in Israel. Approximately 250,000 Israeli students enrolled in university and college programs. Of these, about 46,500 are first-year students in undergraduate programs. Overall, 194,000 students are enrolled this year in undergraduate programs. An additional 44,000 students are studying for a Masters degree, while 10,000 more students are enrolled in doctorate programs. All together, these students will be enrolled in a total of 60 academic institutions. About 77,000 students will commence the academic year in Israel's eight universities. By comparison, the number of students who have enrolled in the country's 26 colleges is significantly high - amounting to a total of 58,000 students. The remaining 21,000 are enrolled in 26 teacher training programs. An additional 37,000 students are enrolled in programs affiliated with the Open University. Jewish students make up more than 90% of all university students, while close to 10% of university students are Israeli-Arabs. Female students make up the majority of the student body - approximately 56% of all students are women. Among first-year students, 10,000 intend to enroll in social science departments. Humanities departments will absorb the second largest group of students - approximately 5,500. 5,000 students have enrolled in engineering and architecture programs, while the number of students planning to enroll in biotechnology programs has doubled itself over the past decade, and now amounts to 3,000 students. 2,200 students have enrolled in undergraduate law programs, while an additional 2,000 students have expressed a preference for enrolling in math or computer science programs. The country's medical schools have accepted 1,800 first-year students, and the same number of students will enroll this year in business programs.