'Western' Jews cream off top places at universities

March 27, 1998

The number of doctoral students of Ashkenazi (European and American) origin at Israeli universities is four times higher than the number of students of Sephardi (African and Asian) origin.

This is despite the fact that the number of Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews in Israel is about equal.

A study for Israel's regional colleges of higher education conducted by the Mashov research company confirms a clear ethnic gap, with Sephardi students significantly under-represented. Students of eastern origin comprise 53 per cent of the intake at the country's 12 regional colleges, compared with just per cent of students at the five universities.

The findings reinforce suspicions that Sephardi Jews lag behind their Ashkenazi contemporaries in terms of social and educational achievement.

"After 50 years of university education in Israel since independence, the representation of the different sectors among university students is unbalanced," said Eliahu Yisraeli, editor of the report.

"The representation in the universities of groups of the relevant age of Asian-African origin is far lower than their proportion in the population. The social gaps in university studies increase the higher the degree," he added.

According to the report, 58.1 per cent of doctoral students are of European-American origin, compared with just 15.7 per cent of Asian-African origin.

Among BA and MA students there are also social gaps. Whereas 45.9 per cent of MA students are Ashkenazi, only 24.4 per cent are Sephardim. Ashkenazis make up 40.3 per cent of BA students, while .1 per cent are Sephardim. The remainder are defined as "Israeli", which means that both they and their fathers were born in Israel.

David Kanaan, spokesman for the Israeli Council for Higher Education which grants accreditation to universities and colleges in Israel, warned that statistical surveys of this kind were notoriously unreliable and the research carried out for the Association of Regional Colleges should be read "very carefully".

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