In recent years, there has been an impressive growth in the number of Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) students in higher education. Between 2008 and 2014 the number of Haredim newly enrolled in academic learning institutions nearly tripled: from 1,122 to 3,227. In 2014, approximately 1,600 Haredi women and 450 Haredi men successfully completed their academic studies – as compared with only 650 Haredi women and 200 Haredi men in 2012. Yet, despite the significant growth in Haredi students, the percentage of university graduates among Haredim (especially men) remains quite low. As of 2014, only about 2.5% of Haredi men and 8% of Haredi women among those aged 25-35 had an academic degree – as compared with 28% of secular men and 43% of secular women.
About 58% of ultra-Orthodox students drop out of their academic studies. Compared to the general population, a smaller percentage of Haredi students study at universities and a larger percentage study at academic colleges (primarily on Haredi campuses) and at the Open University, which has stringent academic requirements but enrollment that is open to all. Approximately 44% of Haredi dropouts studied in private colleges and roughly another 40% studied at the Open University.
The majority of Haredi students are accepted to higher education institutions without bagrut or psychometric exam scores – which is due not only to the fact that most study at academic colleges, but also to the fact that the admissions requirements are much easier at the Haredi campuses than for the overall student population. About 79% of Haredi students at academic colleges were accepted without bagrut or psychometric exam scores.
The fact that the majority of Haredi male students do not study core curriculum subjects in high school impacts their ability to complete an academic degree. Without a change in their basic education, it seems that their drop-out rates will remain high. Achievement among Haredim in English (as a second language) is particularly low; when comparing scores on the psychometric English section, a large gap was found between secular and Haredi students (20 points out of 100) compared with a 6-7 point gap for math and near equal performance on the Hebrew verbal section. However, academic preparatory (mechina) programs and adequate support during academic studies could improve Haredi students’ chances of success.
This paper appears as a chapter in the Center’s annual publication, State of the Nation Report 2016, edited by Prof. Avi Weiss.