Ariel University, former the College of Judea & Samaria (CJS), was established in 1982 as a branch of Bar-Ilan University in the city of Ariel in the northern West Bank. Ariel University is Israel's largest public college and one of the fastest-growing Israeli academic institutions representing the full spectrum of Israeli society: Jew & Arab, secular & observant, new immigrant & veteran Israeli. Students from across the country attend the university, with 70% coming from the greater Tel Aviv area and central Israel and the remainder from northern and southern Israel.
As a demonstratively Zionist institution, the College has two key requirements: every student must study one course per semester on some aspect of Judaism, Jewish heritage or Land of Israel studies, and the Israeli flag must be displayed in every classroom, laboratory and auditorium on campus.
In the 2004–05 academic year, Ariel's affiliation with Bar-Ilan ended and it became an independent college. The University now has 26 departments for BA, MA, BSc and B.Arch studies, in three faculties and three schools. In July 2005, the college received official approval from the Council of Higher Education (CHE) to begin registering students for a Master's degree in its Department of Social Work. The CHE decision marks the first time that the College will be authorized to offer a graduate degree.
On July 17, 2012, the CHE voted to grant the institution full university status. The move was praised by the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Education Gideon Saar, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Nobel Prize laureate Robert Aumann.
In 2011, it had a student population of 14,000, with a branch in Tel Aviv.
Ariel has provided research and employment opportunities to more than 150 immigrant professionals from the former Soviet Union and other countries. These scientists have worked on dozens of R&D projects, in fields such as robotics, electro-optics, crystal growth and environmental studies.
In 2000, the university inaugurated the Free Electron Laser (FEL) on its Ariel campus. The FEL serves as a national center for studying and testing radiation and laser use, providing scientists from Israel and overseas the opportunity to research areas, including material processing, advanced imaging, communications and atmospheric studies.
The university's unique efforts to help with the absorption of immigrant students and professionals from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia have come to serve as a model for educational institutions throughout Israel.
New immigrants are well represented on the Ariel campus, with more than 200 Ethiopian students attending the university and a significantly larger number from the former Soviet Union. Some immigrant students are provided with scholarships, tutorial services and social counseling to help them better integrate into academic life.