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The right to higher education.

What is "the right to higher education?"

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to which Israel became a signatory in 1991, says the following about the right to higher education: "Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education." The covenant thus obligates signatories to develop a system of higher education, with the emphasis on two goals:

1 Accessibility to all on the basis of ability;

2 Free (subsidized) tuition.

A state's commitment to the development of a higher education system and to making it equally accessible to all can be examined through legislation and through budget policy.

Legislation: Israel has not incorporated the directives of the international covenant into its domestic legislation; however, the Council for Higher Education Law of 1958 does contain various directives that incorporate the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion and ethnic group in admission to institutes of higher learning, as well as the principle of equitable funding of institutes of higher learning

At the same time, Israeli legislation does not reflect the idea of making higher education tuition-free as a way of attaining equal accessibility, and there has not been any attempt to deal with the fact that socioeconomic status plays a significant role in the selection of candidates for higher learning.

Budgets: In Israel, higher education is funded mainly by the state. However, in recent years, parallel with the continuing growth of the higher education system, there has been a trend of decreasing budgets earmarked for higher education. As a result, there has been a decrease in state funding of higher education, on a per capita basis, along with an increase in private funding.

Israel's higher education system

Prior to 1990, Israel's higher education system was comprised of a limited number of institutions, mainly universities. Admission requirements were similar, as were the diplomas awarded to their graduates. During the 1990s, following a growing demand for higher education, the system expanded; at present it contains four types of institutions:

1 Universities and university research institutes;

2 Public-supported academic colleges;

3 Private academic colleges;

4 Extensions of foreign universities.

Universities, and public and private colleges award academic degrees recognized by the Council for Higher Education. Extensions of foreign institutions are licensed by the Council for Higher Education but the degrees that they award are foreign degrees; recently, several of them have become private Israeli colleges after receiving the approval of the Council for Higher Education.

In addition, the system includes teacher-training colleges that award bachelor's degrees in education and master's degrees, without theses, in a limited number of disciplines. Other institutes of higher learning, which award professional certificates rather than academic degrees, are not part of the higher education system. Some of them, like non-academic teacher-training colleges, are funded by the Ministry of Education. At present, these non-academic colleges are administered by the Ministry of Education, although the intent is to place them under the auspices of the Council for Higher Education and to enable some of them to award the master's degree.

Universities, colleges and the like: what's the difference?

* Public and Private Institutions: Universities and public colleges are funded by the state through the Council for Higher Education (hereafter: "the public system"). The private colleges and extensions of foreign universities are monitored by the Council for Higher Education but are not funded by the state (hereafter: "the private system").

* Teaching vs Research: Only the universities, the Weizmann Institute and the Technion are permitted to engage in research, and they are the only institutions that receive research allocations from the state. Thus, they are the only institutions that can award doctoral degrees. Despite expansion of the higher education system, the universities have maintained their monopoly in the area of research. The colleges--public and private alike--engage primarily in teaching and are not permitted to award research degrees.

* Tuition: Tuition at public institutions is uniform and subsidized and amounts to about NIS 8,500 a year; tuition at private institutions amounts to between NIS 15,000 and NIS 30,000 a year. Tuition at private colleges is determined independently by each institution and differs from discipline to discipline.

* Admission Requirements: Admission to all institutes of higher learning is contingent upon successfully passing the high school matriculation exams and at most places--upon attaining a certain grade in the college entrance examination. Not all high school matriculation certificates qualify the holder for higher education: the certificate needs to contain a certain array of subjects and a given number of units in each subject. Also, there are significant differences among institutions and among disciplines in each institution concerning the exam results: in general the universities and private colleges demand much higher marks than the public colleges and extensions of foreign institutions.

* Location: There is a connection between the location of the institution, its prestige and its admission requirements. Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the most prestigious and best-funded universities, are located in the geographic center of the country, as are the private colleges. Their admission requirements are the highest. In contrast, Haifa and Ben-Gurion universities, and some of the public colleges, are located at a distance from the center of the country, and their admission requirements are lower.

* Earning Power of Degrees: The salary levels of the graduates of universities and private colleges are significantly higher than those of graduates of public colleges. The salary levels of the latter are closer to those of graduates of non-academic technological institutes or high school graduates. These gaps derive from two main factors: (1) the concentration of prestigious disciplines (business administration, law, computer science, medicine) in universities and private colleges, and (2) admission requirements, which help channel students from families with low socio-economic status to public colleges and students from affluent families to universities and private colleges.

Who goes on to higher education?

Only slightly more than a third of young people educated in Israel go on to higher education in Israel. Only about 45% of young people successfully pass their matriculation exams at the end of high school (2005). Of these, no more than 85% qualify for academic institutes of higher learning. These figures are indicative of the achievement gaps in the primary and secondary education systems. It is these gaps that constitute the major obstacle to the achievement of equal accessibility, on the basis of ability, to the higher education system in Israel. The selection process of candidates for study in academic institutions reinforces the socio-economic tracking at the lower levels.

Not all holders of matriculation certificates continue their studies; as we have seen, some of their certificates are not up to par with admission standards. According to figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics, only about 30% of persons who graduated from Israeli high schools in 1997 began study in an Israeli academic institute of higher learning by 2005 (See the following table).

Among members of the class of 1997 who enrolled in academic institutes of higher learning:

* The proportion of women was 8% higher than the proportion of men;

* The proportion of Jews was double that of Arabs;

* The proportion of Ashkenazim was higher than the proportion of Mizrahim and the proportion of third-generation Israelis;

* The proportion of persons from well-to-do localities was 3 times higher than the proportion of persons from low-income localities;

* The proportion of persons enrolled in high school academic tracks was 3.4 times higher than the proportion of persons enrolled in vocational tracks.

Who goes to universities and who goes to colleges?

* The proportion of women studying at universities is higher than the proportion of women studying at colleges; the same can be said for Arab students and for Ashkenazi students. Among Arab students, Christians are concentrated more in private colleges while Moslem students are concentrated more at universities and public colleges.

* Mizrahi students are more likely to be found in public and private colleges than in universities.

* Among students who are new immigrants, new-comers from Russia study mostly at universities while new-comers from Ethiopia, Buhkara and the Caucasus are more likely to be enrolled in colleges, especially public colleges.

Budgeting higher education

Israel's budget policy for higher education does not contribute to the goal of increasing equal accessibility to higher education as determined in the international covenant (ICESCR).

Over the last decade, the higher education system expanded mainly through the creation of two tiers in the public system--universities and colleges--and through the development of private colleges. This direction, together with the continuing decrease in the budget for higher education, has resulted in a steady decrease in the public financing of higher education!

1 Steady decrease in the budget, on a per capita basis: Since 1996, the trend has been one of decreasing public funding for the system of higher education, on a per capita basis. Since the budget has been decreasing at the same time that the student body has been growing, the allocation per student has been in decline. In the second half of the 1990s, the per student allocation for higher education was between NIS 30,000 and NIS 37,000; since 2000 this allocation has been on the decrease (with the exception of 2003); since 2004 it has been between NIS 27,000 and NIS 28,000.

2 The criteria for the allocation of budgets to the different institutions by the Council for Higher Education (by way of the Budget and Planning Committee) lead to a non-egalitarian distribution of government funds.

* Most of the public funding is based on teaching and research outputs. Since the universities are the only institutions permitted to engage in research, they end up with more funds.

* Teaching outputs are measured by the number of students completing degrees and by the time required to obtain those degrees. These principles have an adverse effect on the public colleges in outlying areas, many of whose students are from families with low socio-economic status. Many of them need more time to complete their degrees, and a large proportion of them drops out of college. It should also be mentioned that these criteria also lead to budgetary differences between universities in the center of the country and those in other locations, to the advantage of the universities in the center of the country.

Outcomes of the budget policy of the Council for Higher Education

An examination of the regular budget of Israeli institutions of higher learning (excluding development budgets and independent sources of revenue) reveals a bias in favor of the universities.

In the 2004-2005 school year, while 22% of bachelor's and master's degree students were enrolled in public colleges, the colleges' share of the regular budget for higher education was only 14%. In contrast, universities received 86% of the budget, while their share of the total student enrollment was 78%.

Moreover, there are also differences between universities and colleges, and among universities, in the amount of revenues received from contributions and from tuition payments.

How can accessibility to academic higher education be made more equitable?

The expansion of the higher education system in Israel, begun in the 1990s, led to a rapid growth in the number of academic institutions and to a significant increase in the number of students. At the same time, this expansion did not increase equality of accessibility to higher education. The new private and public colleges removed academic obstacles to admittance, in particular, the weight of the college entrance examination--which is culturally biased and as such disadvantageous to candidates who are Arab citizens, new immigrants, and, to a lesser extent, Mizrahi Jews. At the same time, the association between economic status and accessibility to higher education was preserved and even magnified. Due to the overlap of ethnic origin and economic status, economic selection reinforces cultural selection, decreasing the chances of many young men and women from peripheral communities to receive a higher education in general and decreasing their accessibility to prestigious disciplines in particular. How can equal accessibility to higher education be increased?

* By developing the public higher education system;

* By increasing budget allocations to public higher education, taking into account the socio-economic profile of the students in each institution and compensating for the same;

* By improving the performance of primary schools and high schools in the socio-economic periphery of the country;

* By actively recruiting students from development towns, Arab localities and localities with high proportions of new immigrants, and providing them with financial and moral support;

* By increasing student aid programs in all institutions, both private and public.
Members of high school graduation class of 1997

Who enrolled in universities or academic colleges by 2005 * By various
characteristics * Percentages of high school graduates in each line

Gender                               Universities   Colleges   Total
Men                                  16.5           9.9        26.4
Women                                22.4           10.1       32.5

Ethnic group                         Universities   Colleges   Total
Jews                                 21.0           11.4       32.4
Arabs                                12.2           2.7        14.9

Origin (Jews and Others)             Universities   Colleges   Total
Israel                               22.6           13.0       35.6
Asia-Africa                          15.5           10.2       25.7
Europe-America                       25.5           10.9       36.4

Socio-economic ranking of locality   Universities   Colleges   Total
2-1                                  12.5           2.6        15.1
4-3                                  12.4           4.8        17.2
6-5                                  17.6           8.8        26.4
8-7                                  23.8           13.7       37.5
10-9                                 29.5           18.1       47.6

Study track in high school           Universities   Colleges   Total
Academic                             25.2           11.9       37.1
Vocational                           7.4            6.2        13.6

Source:  Central Bureau of Statistics,
Academic Colleges, 2003/04, January 2006.

Bachelor degree students at universities and academic colleges
(public and private)

By type of funding and by gender, religion and origin * 2003/2004
* selected characteristics * in absolute numbers and in percentages

Gender, ethnic group, origin   University   Academic College

                                            Total    Public   Private

Total (Absolute numbers)       78,561       51,086   32,233   18,853
Percentages                    100          100      100      100
Women                          55.9         44.8     42.8     48.2
Ethnic group
Jews                           87.0         92.3     91.2     94.4
Arabs                          9.8          5.2      5.5      4.7
Therein: Moslems               6.3          3.5      3.8      2.9
Origin (Jews and Others)
Israel                         41.6         39.3     36.5     45.0
Asia-Africa                    22.4         28.6     28.6     28.5
Europe-America                 36           32.1     35.2     26.6


(1.) Origin Asia-Africa: Israeli-born persons whose fathers were
born in Asia or Africa and persons born in Asia or Africa.

(2.) Origin Europe-America: Israeli-born persons whose fathers
were born in Europe or America and persons born in Europe or

Source: Shlomo Swirski and Etty Konor-Attias, Israel: A Social
Report--2006. Adva Center.

Public financing of the public higher education system
On a per capita basis * 1996-2007 * In NIS * In 2005 prices

1996    37,099
1997    34.863
1998    30,985
1999    32,434
2000    33,784
2001    32,685
2002    28,688
2003    30,514
2004    27,332
2005    27,376
2006    27,991
2007    27,917

Sources: Adva Center analysis of Ministry of Finance, Office of the
CFO, Financial Report, various years; Ministry of Finance, Budget
Instructions for 2006, Higher Education, June 2006; Ministry of
Finance, Proposed Budget for 2007: Higher Education, October 2006.

Note: Table made from bar graph

Type of        Proportion of       Percentage of
Institution    Students Enrolled   Education Budget

Universities   78%                 86%
Colleges       22%                 14%
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Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jan 1, 2007
Next Article:Social rights in Israel: inferior legal status and insufficient budgets.

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