Increasing access to higher education for Israel’s Arab citizens is an essential part of realising this population’s potential to contribute to Israel’s economic prosperity and improve socio-economic conditions within the Arab community. Since the 1990s there has been a constant growth in rates of Arab students in higher education: In the 1999-2000 academic year 9.8% of higher education students were Arab citizens, which increased by 2015-2016 to 14.7%. However this number still is lower than the percentage of Arab citizens in the entire population, approximately 21%. More information about the numbers of Arab citizens in Israel’s higher education institutions (students and faculty) can be found here and here.
A number of major governmental measures have been introduced in recent years aiming to close gaps and increase Arab citizens’ integration into Israel’s higher education system and to make it more accessible to Arabic speakers. In 2012, the Council for Higher Education (CHE) launched a 6 year programme to be implemented by its Planning and Budgeting Committee (PBC). One of the imperatives of this plan was to nominate a faculty member in each university or college, preferably Arab, to be in charge of the various strategies for implementing the plan and to make effective use of the budget allocated for it.
Following this The Van Leer Jerusalem institute (VLJI) established a Forum for Advancing Higher Education in the Arab Society for the Arab students’ coordinators in universities and colleges. The forum serves as a platform for mutual exchange of experience and challenges between the facilitator of the deferent programmes of the 30 academic institutions that are taking part in efforts to advance Arab citizens in higher education. It conducts special training sessions for the facilitators who implement the programme on campus, and meets several times a year for mutual learning of each other’s challenges, dilemmas, and successes. Some of the meetings are in smaller groups according to specific topics, such as: arts and architecture studies; employment consultation and more.
The VLJI forum gives special attention to the cultural and social aspects of absorbing Arab students, faculty and administrative staff into the academic institutions in Israel, based on studies from around the globe that show that the achievements of students improve when institutions embrace a cultural sensitive approach.
Recently, the forum launched a new website titled: ACADEMIYYA, to maximize the support to its members in building the best models of intervention. This Hebrew-Arabic website includes posts on projects of different academic institutions that aim to integrate Arab students into campus daily life as well to gain support in their academic work. The site includes also information about scholarships, job opportunities in academia, new Arab faculty member nominations, links to comparatives research, conferences on multicultural campuses, and personal blog writing related to the topic.
Pluralism and multiculturalism on campus is one of the main topics of the forum, and members are also engaged in a wide range of comparative multi-disciplinary research studies. “The ultimate goal of the Forum” says Dr Sarah Ozacky-Lazar, the Forum’s coordinator, “is to create the best models of ‘shared campuses’ where students and faculty from different background would feel at home and by this improve their academic achievements.”
The Centre for the Study of Multiculturalism and Diversity
Haifa University: The Jewish-Arab Centre – English