Higher education plays a pivotal role in the economic and social development of the country. Almost a quarter of a century before the state came into being, the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa was opened (1924) to train engineers and architects needed for the rebuilding of the country, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was founded (1925) as a center of higher learning for youth in the Land of Israel and to attract Jewish students and scholars from abroad. When Israel attained independence in (1948), enrollment at the two universities totaled about 1,600. Today about 149,000 students attend the country's institutions of higher learning. Of these 97,000 attend universities and 28,000 are enrolled in colleges, while some 24,000 participate in courses through the Open University.
Accorded full academic and administrative freedom, Israel's institutions of higher education are open to all those who meet their academic standards. New immigrants and students lacking the necessary qualifications may attend a special preparatory program, which upon successful completion enables them to apply for admission.
Council for Higher EducationInstitutions of higher education operate under the authority of the Council for Higher Education, which is headed by the Minister of Education, Culture and Sport and includes academics, community representatives and a student representative. It grants accreditation, authorizes the awarding of academic degrees and advises the government on the development and financing of higher education and scientific research. The Planning and Grants Committee, composed of four senior academics from different fields and two public figures from the business or industrial sectors, is the intermediary body between the government and the institutions of higher education regarding financial matters, submitting budget proposals to both bodies and allocating the approved budget. Public funds provide 70 percent of the budget for higher education, 20 percent derives from tuition and the rest from various private sources. The Committee also promotes cooperation among the various institutions.
The higher education system comprises universities, non-university institutions of higher education that provide instruction in specific fields, such as business administration, technology, arts and crafts and teacher training, at the bachelor's degree level only and regional colleges that offer academic responsibility of the universities. A recent feature of the higher education system in Israel is the establishment of general colleges providing a abroad spectrum of degree programs at the undergraduate level. These colleges are being established to meet the increasing demand for higher education that is expected to continue into the first decade of the 21st century.
By law, institutions of higher education are autonomous in the conduct of their academic and administrative affairs within the framework of their approved budgets and their terms of accreditation.
Research is an important component of university activities, usually considered to be equal to the teaching component. Virtually all of the basic research in the country and most of the research in the humanities and social sciences are performed in the humanities and social sciences are performed in the universities.
The following universities are engaged in both teaching and research:
These institutions provide undergraduate and post-graduate programs in the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences. Some have programs in law, medicine, dental medicine, pharmacy, para-medicine, agriculture, applied sciences, engineering and architecture. The Open University of Israel offers undergraduate courses in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences and is based on distance teaching.
The duration of studies for a bachelor's degree in universities is three years in most cases. However in certain fields such as engineering the duration of study extends to up to four years and in the case of architecture, five years. For non-university institutions of higher education, programs of studies of varying duration (three years and above) have been introduced.
Higher Education in Israel usually follows 12 years of primary and secondary education. A precondition is possession of the Israeli matriculation certificate (bagrut) or its equivalent. Some fields of study require creating minimum grades in matriculation examinations. Most institutions require candidates to submit psychometric entrance examination scores. The only requirement of the Open University is that applicants are capable of academic study.
Pre-academic preparatory programs have been set up in universities, teacher training colleges and regional colleges to provide a second chance to enter higher education to individuals who did not obtain a matriculation certificate at the culmination of their secondary level education or who want to improve their chances of being accepted in an institution of higher education. The duration of the programs provided by universities is one year (except for special cases) while programs administered by regional colleges and teacher training colleges can run for as long as two and in some cases three years.
StudentsMost Israeli students are over age 21 when they begin their studies, due to three years compulsory military service for men and almost two years for women. Until the early 1960s, students pursued higher education mainly to acquire knowledge, while in recent years they have been more career-oriented, with larger numbers enrolled in the wide range of professional studies now offered. At present, well over half of Israelis in the 20-24 age group are enrolled in one of the country's institutions of post-secondary or higher education.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (est. 1925) comprises faculties which cover nearly all areas of scholarship, from art history to zoology, and houses Israel's National Library. Since its inception, Hebrew University scientists have been actively involved in every phase of Israel's national development, and its Jewish studies departments rank among the most comprehensive in the world.
The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (est. 1924, Haifa) has graduated a high proportion of the country's engineers, architects and town planners. In recent decades, faculties for medicine and the life sciences were added. The Technion serves as a center of basic and applied research in the sciences and engineering to advance the country's industrial development.
Tel Aviv University (est. 1956) was founded by incorporating three existing institutions to meet the need for a university in the Tel Aviv area, the country's most populous region. Today it is Israel's largest university, offering a wide spectrum of disciplines and placing considerable emphasis on both basic and applied research. The university houses specialized institutes which focus on strategic studies, health systems management, technological forecasting and energy studies.
Bar-Ilan University (est. 1955, Ramat Gan) embodies a unique integrative approach which combines enrichment programs in Jewish heritage with a liberal education, in a wide range of disciplines, particularly in the social sciences. Blending tradition with modern technologies, it houses research institutes in physics, medicinal chemistry, mathematics, economics, strategic studies, developmental psychology, musicology, Bible, Talmud, Jewish law and more.
Haifa University (est. 1963), which serves as a center of higher education in the northern part of the country, offers opportunities for interdisciplinary studies; its interdepartmental centers, institutes and overall architectural plan are structured to facilitate this approach. The university includes a unit for the study of the kibbutz as a social and economic entity, as well as a center dedicated to the advancement of understanding and cooperation between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (est. 1967, Be'er Sheva) was established to serve the residents of southern Israel and to encourage the social and scientific development of the country's desert region. It has made major contributions in arid zone research, and its medical school has pioneered community-oriented medicine in the country. The university's campus at Kibbutz Sde Boker houses a research center for the study of the historical and political aspects of the life and times of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister.
The Weizmann Institute of Science (est. 1934, Rehovot), originally founded as the Sieff Institute, was expanded in 1949 and named for Dr. Chaim Weizmann, Israel's first president and a renowned chemist. Today, it is a recognized post-graduate center of research in physics, chemistry, mathematics and the life sciences. Its researchers are engaged in projects designed to accelerate the development of industry and the establishment of new science-based enterprises. The Institute includes a department for science teaching which prepares curricula for use in high schools.
The Open University (est. 1974), patterned on the British model, offers distinctive, non-traditional higher education opportunities toward a bachelor's degree by utilizing flexible methods based primarily on self-study textbooks and guides, supplemented by structured assignments and periodic tutorials, with final examinations.
CollegesRegional colleges offer academic courses under the auspices of one of the universities, making it possible for students to begin studying for a degree near their home and complete it at the university's main campus. Some specialized institutes provide various disciplines in art, music, dance, fashion, nursing, rehabilitation therapies, teaching and sports, respectively. Several private degree-granting colleges offer subjects in great demand such as business administration, law, computers, economics and related topics. At some, additional tracks are available, leading to certificates or vocational diplomas in a variety of subjects ranging from technology and agriculture to marketing and hotel trades.
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