Representation of Arab Citizens in the Institutions of Higher Education In Israel

For years Sikkuy has been paying special attention to equality in access and participation in the higher education system in Israel both in terms of monitoring and research. In 2008….

For years Sikkuy has been paying special attention to equality in access and participation in the higher education system in Israel both in terms of monitoring and research. In 2008 we conducted a study on fair representation of Arab citizens in the higher education system and since then we have written a number of articles, policy papers and action programs designed to suggest ways of integrating Arab society into the system.

Hence, this study is only part of a larger plan designed to cover the subject of equal access to higher education in the public discourse. The main innovation in the present study is the introduction of an examination of Arab representation not only as consumers of higher education but as part of the decision-making system in the institutions of higher learning.

In order to develop the discourse about access and participation of Arab society in the decision-making system, we investigated several variables, including the numbers of students, academics serving as lecturers (with tenure), administrative employees in various departments and members of the governing bodies of the universities we studied. This study provides an overview of Arab representation in the organizational and academic systems of the universities we investigated.

In this report we used qualitative and quantitative research methodologies; qualitative tools included in-depth interviews and text analysis, and quantitative tools including questionnaires. The combination of the two methodologies enabled the study to maximize the advantages of both methods and to greatly minimize their weaknesses.

After the questionnaire was approved by members of the steering committee and successfully passed a pilot test, it was sent to the target population, which included the heads of the universities (seven universities and the Open University) and the heads of two colleges, The Western Galilee College and Kaye College, while the colleges serve as control groups regarding the representation and under-representation of all the research topics. The questionnaire was composed of 32 closed questions, and based on the pilot, it should take 60-70 minutes to complete, if the information is accessible.

While waiting for the completed questionnaires we conducted most of the in-depth interviews with the relevant people, and held informal conversations with key figures. After the data from the quantitative study was gathered, the statistical analysis was conducted using SPSS software, and the interviews were analyzed with the interpretive method.

The study demonstrated that the trend of an increasing number of Arab students in the higher education system, which began in the mid-1970s and has continued since then is still very far from closing the gaps. In the 2012-2013 academic year Arabs constituted 10% of undergraduate students, 7.3% of graduate students, and only about 4% of doctoral students. Arabs represent 1.75% of the faculty at the universities and no more than 0.9% of the administrators. Only 1.9% of those serving on the board of trustees or the board of directors are Arabs.

The findings explicitly indicate an unacceptably low representation of the Arab population in the higher education system on all the levels examined. It bears mention is that the higher the degree the smaller the percentage of Arabs.

Sikkuy calls on the government to act immediately and vigorously to address this gloomy situation. First and foremost we call on the government to include Arab society, with its representative organizations, in a multi-stage program to increase the percentage of Arabs in higher education. The government must cooperate with the dozens of Arab and Jewish organizations and institutions working to promote higher education, in addition to the organizations working to include Arab academics.

Our recommendations are as follows: The government must increase access to higher education among young Arabs, and among women in particular. Sikkuy has recommended many programs to encourage the inclusion of Arab students in higher education, and we will continue to do so. We believe that the first step for including students, academics, administrators, and members of the board of directors in higher education in Israel lies in establishing institutions of higher education in Arab cities and communities, which will serve the entire Israeli population. This issue has been discussed extensively among the Israeli public and in Arab society, and progress on this issue will only benefit everyone involved.

Above all, we think that absorbing more Arab academics is easier than increasing the percentage of Arab students in higher education. The process of including Arabs begins with fair representation on the governing bodies of the universities; when Arab academics become part of the policy- and decision-making system we will be able to see genuine progress on this issue. Arab academics will naturally be able to suggest solutions for adding Arabs to the administrative staff, increasing the number of students and addressing the problem of unemployed Arab academics, a painful issue that in recent years has begun to receive greater media attention.

In Israel there are tens of thousands of Arab college graduates who do not have work commensurate with their abilities. Thousands more are added each year, without a solution being offered by the authorities. These college graduates could be the difference between a progressive, enlightened and prosperous society and a backward and unequal one. We therefore welcome the decision to employ 500 female Arab teachers in Jewish schools beginning in the current academic year. We are awaiting additional initiatives of this kind in other areas where there is a large number of Arabs who are unemployed or have jobs that do not suit their abilities.

Sikkuy will continue to monitor, write and promote suggestions to solve this issue, both on the professional and the governnental levels. This study is not our first on the subject, but part of a long process that began many years earlier.

We understand that the process is a long one, and we are pleased to see progress on several planes, we believe wholeheartedly that the issue of fair representation of Arab society in the higher education system is one of the cornerstones of Jewish-Arab relations in this country for the coming decades.