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Higher Education in Israel: Ariel University

Ariel University, formerly 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 and  Arab, secular and observant, new immigrant and 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.

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.

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.

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 2005, Ariel created a special pre-college program specifically designed for Arab students who do not meet academic college admissions standards. The one-year program offers math, English, Hebrew, computer and learning skills classes. Students who do well in the pre-college program can enroll in B.A. programs without taking the psychometric exam that is required of all potential university students in Israel.

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 first graduate degree offered by the college. In 2014, Ariel began to offer doctorates in many fields.

On July 17, 2012, the CHE voted to grant the institution full university status. The decision was controversial as Israel’s other universities were unhappy with a new competitor. Some critics also objected to the upgrade in status because of the university’s location in the West Bank. Although most discussions of territorial compromise foresee Ariel being annexed to Israel in a future peace agreement, such a decision is controversial because it juts approximately 12 miles into the West Bank. Nevertheless, the CHE decision was praised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Education Gideon Saar, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Nobel Prize laureate Robert Aumann.

Today, Ariel University is home to a variety of research centers, including an integrative brain science center, an applied cancer research center, a center for robotics research and applications, a homeland security R & D center, a world-renowned materials research center, and the Schlesinger Center for Radiation Sources and Applications (FEL – free electron laser particle accelerator). The Institute for Wine Research, in partnership with the Samaria and Jordan Rift R&D Center stands at the forefront of Israeli high-tech in the fields of wine research and development.

In August 2018, Ariel University officials announced plans to open a medical school and begin offering medical degrees. The medical school will allow an additional 100 Israeli students per year to pursue medical degrees. With the opening of the Ariel University medical school, the University of Haifa will be the only university in Israel that will not offer a medical degree program.

As of 2018, Ariel University had more than 15,000 students and 300 faculty members. Despite Ariel’s location in what Arabs consider “occupied territory,” the university has several hundred Israeli Arab students.

Sources: Ariel University;
The College of Judea & Samaria;
Talya Halkin, “Ariel offers Arab students a pre-college program,” Jerusalem Post, (November 1, 2005)
Moshe Arens, A New Medical School That Will Benefit Israelis and Palestinians Alike, Haaretz, (August 27, 2018).