The National Plan for Expanding Access to Higher Education for Arabs, Druze and Circassians: Preliminary Findings from the Evaluation

Increasing access to higher education among the Arab citizens of Israel is crucial not only for the individual students themselves but for Israel’s overall economic development.

In 2013-14, Arabs accounted for 26% of young adults in Israel ages 18-25, yet were only 12% of the students enrolled in higher education.  Those who do study in higher education typically study a limited range of fields.  Relatively few pursue masters and doctoral degrees.

The Council for Higher Education initiated a five year program to enhance the successful integration of Arab-Israeli citizens into higher education. The program provides support for all public higher education institutions. The program includes the following major components of support for the students – pre-academic preparatory programs, the “one step ahead” preparatory program for students accepted to higher education, academic and social support for students during their studies, and special scholarships for those in need, and assistance in transitioning to the labor market.

The program is accompanie d by a multi-year evaluation condu cted by the Institute. MJB first evaluated a pilot effort to introduce an enriched support model for Arab students in preparatory programs for higher education.  The model focused on strengthening English and Hebrew language, learning skills, preparation for the psychometric exam, social activities, personal and academic mentoring, and counseling.

This report focuses on the initial implementati on of the full program, which began in 2012/13 in most of the institutions. The report examines the implementation up until the middle of the academic year 2014/2015 and the planned implementation for 2015/2016.

The report focuses on two levels of the program:

  •  At the national level, it focuses on the functioning of the national administrative structure, the model for financing the participating institutions, the information systems, and inter-institutional learning processes and cooperation.
  •  At the level of the participating institutions, it focuses on how the specific components of student support are being implemented in each institution in terms of the administrative structure and the nature of the supports provided.

The report indicates that the program is being significantly implemented in all of the 28 participating institutions. It also documents the considerable variation in the way in which the program is being implemented, and analyses these differences in relation to the characteristics of the Arab-Israeli student body, as well as the characteristics of the institutions themselves. Finally, the report identifies key issues that need to be addressed in the further development and implementation of the program.

The findings have been presented and discussed with the staff of the Council for Higher Education and representatives of all participating institutions, and are being used as the basis for ongoing efforts to improve the current program. It has created very meaningful opportunities for the institutions to learn from each other.

The Institute is also engaged in promoting exchange with similar international efforts.  The evaluation is serving as the basis for a chapter in a forthcoming international volume on access to higher education for minority groups, led by a research team from the UK.  The chapter is being written by MJB researchers Ayala Hendin and Dalia Ben-Rabi, together with Prof. Faisal Azaiza from Haifa University, the chairman of the 5-Year Plan Steering Committee.

The program was the focus too of the session at an international conference of the Society for Research into Higher Education, in Wales.

The study was commissioned by the Council for Higher Education and funded with its assistance.

* Not in print, available only on the website