Number of Arab Israelis studying high-tech doubles since 2012

With workers in high demand, Israeli students have been drawn to tech studies, with the sharpest increase by far seen in the Arab community, says the Council for Higher Education

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Students walk through the Tel Aviv University campus in Israel. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Students walk through the Tel Aviv University campus in Israel. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

In the past six years the number of Arab Israelis studying high-tech subjects at Israeli universities and colleges has doubled, according to data published by the Council for Higher Education.

According to the data, in 2018, there were 3,778 Arab students studying high-tech subjects for BA degrees, making up 12% of the total number, compared to 1,851 in 2012, when they were 8% of the total.

High-tech studies are defined as electronic and electrical engineering; communication system engineering; software and optical engineering; and math and computer sciences.

In the 2012-2018 period, the number of total Israeli students studying tech subjects jumped by 30%; for the Arab population, that number jumped 100%, the data showed.

The  number of Arab students pursuing such studies at Israeli colleges grew by 140%, and the number at universities grew 90% during 2012-18, the data shows.

“The impressive results” are testament to the success of a program that has sought to integrate Arab Israelis into the high-tech studies in academia, said Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, chair of the Council for Higher Education. “Today we see Arab students studying and excelling in all the Israeli campuses.”

Israel is seeking to boost the number of technology graduates emerging from its universities and colleges, as the so-called Startup Nation faces a shortage of skilled workers to fuel its ranks. With a thousand new startups every year and multinationals flocking to Israel and setting up local R&D centers, Israel is feeling a manpower squeeze, which is pushing up salaries in the tech sector to among the highest in the world and generating friction between startup entrepreneurs and multinational giants in a battle for brains.

In October, data published by the Council for Higher education showed that Israeli students in general are migrating to engineering, mathematics and computer programming, while shunning the more traditional fields of business and law.

According to the data, for the first time ever in the 2017-2018 academic year there were more students in Israel registered to study engineering, some 18.3% of the student population, than social sciences, which accounted for 17.9%. One out of four undergraduate students in Israel – some 50,214 — were studying either engineering or computer sciences.

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