What Are They Studying ?

Graduate students comprised almost a third of all newly enrolled degree-pursuing students at the University this past year. In all, 30.8% of the 3,577 students who began the task that, with due diligence, will lead to an academic degree in recognition of scholastic attainment were seeking an M.A. or Ph.D. The increase in students enrolled for the first time in an advanced-degree program continues a trend of recent years. In 1997/98, the percentage of new graduate students amounted to 26.8%. This continued growth of the University’s Graduate School marked the start of the 1998/99 academic year, perhaps more than did its six-week late start in consequence of the strike by students.

The total number of all graduate students, not just new ones, also rose this year, both in absolute numbers and in percentage terms. This semester M.A. and Ph.D. candidates constitute 26.4% of the 11,836 degree-pursuing students at the University. A year earlier, in Fall 1997, graduate students made up 23.8% of the 11,587 who were studying toward a degree.

By far, the largest number of Master’s degree students is found in the Faculty of Education. The next largest M.A. field is Political Science. Next comes Jewish History, and then Social Work.

Because of the often individual nature of doctoral studies, no breakdown exists of that category by department. This year, however, more than twice the number of new doctoral aspirants began their candidacy as last year, and the overall number of Ph.D. students at the start of the present academic year was more than 75% higher than last Fall.

The University’s total student body, including both degree students and those studying toward professional certification, numbered 12,366 after the strike. Minority students comprised 17.2% of this number, and new immigrants 6.7%.

Students choose a field of study for any number of reasons, some having to do with prevailing fads in the country, others with where students think the jobs lie, and still others because of an interest in a subject. Choices may also reflect the ability to be accepted by a department or not to be closed out by a department of first choice, whether because of late registration or not meeting entrance requirements. In Israel, it is generally each department that sets its own admissions standards and accepts/rejects a student rather than the University itself. Students turned down by one department may be accepted by another.

The Faculty that recorded the largest intake of new students this year was the newest unit, the Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Studies. The other Faculties more or less followed the path being taken by students throughout Israel. The largest Faculty continues to be Social Sciences and Mathematics, which saw a small rise over last year’s initial enrollment figure. Humanities again declined, even if by a tiny amount. Education, the University’s third largest Faculty, also drew slightly fewer students this year than at the start of last year. Law filled its limited capacity with no difficulty.

The most popular undergraduate department this year is Economics, which deposed General Studies from its traditional top spot of the past few years. The latter department in fact fell to fourth place after Education and Sociology. Middle East History remains the favorite among the University’s Humanities students, as it was last year, but its enrollment is surpassed by five of the nine departments in the Social Sciences/Mathematics Faculty.

Perhaps another sign of the times is the increasing popularity of Teacher Training, a professional certification course of study offered by the Faculty of Education and requiring at least a previous Bachelor’s degree in some field. Its enrollment has increased steadily over the past few years, and this year it would have been listed as the third most popular if considered as an undergraduate department.

For that matter, the Department of Education also registered an increase in student body. Other departments with increased enrollments were Communication, Computer Sciences, Economics, and Geography (Social Sciences Faculty); and Bible Studies, English Literature, Hebrew/Comparative Literature, and Middle East History (Humanities Faculty).

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