Israel's Education Ministry, Universities Clash Over Admission Requirements

Ministry says in the future, one out of every three high school graduates will be accepted to university or college based only on their matriculation grades.

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A class in a large lecture hall at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which hired the largest number of returning academics.
A class at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which hired the largest number of returning academics.Credit: Tess Scheflan
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One out of every three high school graduates will in the future be accepted to university or college based only on their matriculation grades, rather than psychometric tests, the Education Ministry said on Tuesday.

However, the academic institutions are not all in agreement with the ministry’s announcement.

“There is currently no justification for throwing around the figure of 30 percent to be accepted without the psychometric exam,” a senior university official told Haaretz. “If everyone wants to study the humanities that might be true, but in those departments there was never a problem getting accepted.”

The ministry’s statement “was conveyed imprecisely,” the university official added.

Some of the universities in fact released statements that contradicted the ministry statement. Hebrew University said, “The university has had a channel for direct acceptance to many departments without a psychometric exam for several years now.”

At Bar-Ilan University, only three departments accept students without a psychometric exam – sociology, political science and communications. Bar-Ilan will also accept students to the humanities departments if their matriculation exam average was 8.5 or more, but that has been the case at most universities for years now.

The Technion also published its criteria for acceptance without a psychometric exam, but these are particularly high. For example, a basic requirement is a score of 88 in the English matriculation exam at five units (the highest level) and a score of 90 in the math and physics track in the five-unit matriculation exams for those subjects.

Only four of more than 20 colleges have published their requirements. However, the colleges already have a number of acceptance tracks without a psychometric exam.

Another open question is whether students who have a psychometric score to present on application will receive priority in acceptance over students who do not.

The National Student Union said that according to its information, most universities recommend that even students who want to be accepted without the psychometric test take it anyway to be on the safe side, and not to rely on the ministry’s reform.

“An agreement was signed, but there was no real intent to keep to it and no process was started at the end of which the matriculation exams will be the main parameter for acceptance,” National Student Union chairman Gilad Arditi said. Arditi added that the student union would continue to press for what he called “a real reform” in the Council for Higher Education that would obligate all institutions, and be enacted together with efforts “to strengthen the matriculation exams as a real alternative to the psychometric test.”

According to a source familiar with the issue: “The details of the reform were concluded in a binding document with the heads of both the universities and the colleges and as long as the Education Ministry keeps its part of the bargain, the universities must offer acceptance tracks without the psychometric exam and publish their criteria now, as they pledged.”

The agreement states that the reform in acceptance criteria to higher education depends on “implementation of the reform in matriculation exams led by the Education Ministry.” Now that MK Shay Piron (Yesh Atid) is no longer education minister, it is unclear what will happen to the reform, which includes, among other things, a reduction in the number of matriculation exams.

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