Studying for a Career or for Knowledge? The Student’s Choose

The thirst for a profession and career more than that for knowledge per se seems to be taking hold more than ever in the Israeli society, if one can extrapolate from course enrollment figures at the University.

This year, like last year, the Dept. of Economics recorded the largest initial enrollment. Armed with a degree in economics, students usually decide to look for work in some area of business, a broad occupational sector that has been increasingly attracting younger Israelis, not just University of Haifa graduates. The Economics Dept. at the University includes tracks in accounting and business administration.

By the same token, the General Studies Dept., which offers an American-type liberal arts course of study and which had the largest number of incoming students for a number of years until just two years ago, is now fourth in enrollment. After two or three years or more in the army that is the lot of at least half the applicants, new students apparently want to concentrate on “career studies” more than on a general education.

At Haifa, just as at other Israeli universities, applicants are accepted by a department within a university rather than by the institution itself as in the United States. The size of enrollment in a department is dictated by both subjective (Does this subject interest me? Will it lead to a job?) and objective (primarily entrance criteria, but also number of available seats or other facilities, etc.) considerations.

Overall, the Economics Dept. is the largest undergraduate department at the University, and General Studies is second. Sociology, which had the third largest new enrollment, is the third largest undergraduate department. Education, with the second largest initial enrollment, is fourth in overall department size.

Three departments recorded substantial jumps in initial enrollment this year. These were Philosophy and Arabic Language and Literature in the Humanities Faculty and Psychology in the Social Sciences Faculty.

On the graduate level, the picture changes somewhat. The largest department is Education, a reflection perhaps of the increasing number of teachers who return full or part time to seek an advanced degree. The second largest M.A. department is Political Science, whose curricula include programs in public administration, public/internal auditing, and a special course of study for members of Israel’s security establishment. The third largest graduate department is Social Work, and the fourth Jewish History (this last discipline spurred by findings and recommendations of the Shenhar Commission on Jewish education in the Israeli school system, named for its chairperson, Prof. Aliza Shenhar, a former Rector of the University and past Ambassador to Russia). Economic majors apparently would rather stay in the job market or pursue a graduate degree in another field once they have their B.A. if one can judge by the number of M.A. students in that discipline.

The Graduate School (Master’s and Doctoral candidates) recorded 29% of all new student enrollments this year. As for the University as a whole, the percentage of new-immigrant students (almost 6%) went down very slightly, but the number of students from minority groups (19%) went up over last year.

In line with trends at other Israeli universities, new students here opted for studies in the social sciences, nearly 49% of all first-year students—the same percentage as last year— having chosen a departmental major in this Faculty this year.


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