Higher education among the Arabs in Israel: Formal policy between empowerment and control

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This article analyses higher education among the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel. It traces the main trends since the establishment of the state of Israel and examines the principal factors that have retarded the access of Arabs to higher education. These issues are analysed along with contextual factors that have to do with the structure of the Arab population and the formal policy adopted toward them. In addition, the relationship between higher education and cultural dominance and the prospects for multiculturalism in Israeli academic institutes is explored. The data are based on official statistics, the analysis of official documents, and a field survey conducted at the University of Haifa in 2001, on a representative sample of Arab and Jewish students. The analysis shows that despite the relatively autonomous status of Israeli academic institutions, formal policy on higher education is an extension of policy imposed at the elementary and secondary levels. Higher education reflects power relationships in the wider society, and this serves to reproduce the stratification system and to deepen the cultural hegemony of the majority. Genuine change in the formal policy on access and conditions of minorities in institutions of higher education entails a re-division of power in the wider society and a move towards a multicultural concept. Such change would secure cultural diversity and promote intercultural relations based on equality and equity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-368
Number of pages18
JournalHigher Education Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
In recent years, an important — albeit limited — change took place in hiring educated Arabs at senior levels. In this context, more than half the Arab lecturers in universities today were appointed, thanks to stipends provided by the Ma’ of Fund, which was established in 1995 by the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education and the Kahanoff Foundation. The Ma’ of stipends are for outstanding Arab scholars whom the university is interested in hiring. The programme provides four to six 3-year stipends each year. The universities undertake to finance their positions from their regular budget at the end of the 3 year stipend.4 Following the publication of the Al-Haj report ‘‘Higher Education among the Arabs in Israel’’, by the Council of Higher Education (July 1999), the number of the Ma’ of stipends was raised to up to 10 grants annually. Furthermore, the range of institutions eligible for these grants was expanded to include Academic Colleges. Even so, there has been almost no change in the number of Arabs in administrative posts in Israeli institutions of higher education.5


  • Arabs
  • Control
  • Empowerment
  • Israel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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