Encouraging leadership and academic excellence among students of Ethiopian descent is the aim of a $40.4-million initiative launched by the Council for Higher Education in Israel.
The multiyear plan stemmed from Israel’s 2015 Government Policy for Advancing the Integration of Israel Citizens of Ethiopian Descent into Israeli Society.
The steering committee for Making Higher Education Accessible to Students of Ethiopian Descent outlined primary obstacles to integration of Ethiopian-descended students into the higher education system, including lack of pre-academic information, advisement and guidance; a low percentage of holders of matriculation certificates that meet the threshold set by universities; high dropout rates between the first and second years and lack of variety of areas of study.
The goal is to increase the number of students of Ethiopian descent enrolled in undergraduate programs from 1.45 percent to about 1.7 percent by 2022, a number commensurate with the percentage of people of Ethiopian descent in the general Israeli population.
If achieved, the outcome will represent an increase of about 40 percent in the number of bachelor’s degree students, from 2,500 to approximately 3,500 within five years.
The new CHE plan, combined with previous decisions, forms a holistic program of broad support beginning at the pre-academic stage and continuing to bachelor’s and advanced degree studies, academic excellence scholarships for second-year master’s students and the hiring of senior academic staff.
“The planning and budgeting committee has defined making the higher education system accessible to unique populations a central goal in its work plan, with an emphasis on persons of Ethiopian descent, the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs,” said Dr. Yaffa Zilbershats, the committee chair and a professor. “It is our obligation to increase excellence in academia and research, but at the same time, we must open the doors to a higher education to all social groups and sectors and promote true equality, permitting every student in Israel to realize his or her talents, irrespective of his or her ethnicity or where they live.”