Number of Israeli Tech Students Far Exceeding Expectations

Officials see 55% increase in enrolment by 2022 versus 2016, helping to ease Israel’s high-tech labor shortage

The Technology College of Be'er Sheva.
Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

Israel’s high-tech labor crunch may be be alleviated in the near future as students flock to classes in computer science, electric engineering and software engineering. The numbers enrolled are greater than the numbers anticipated by the universities when they launched a program, hoping to lure more young people into the field.

Figures obtained by TheMarker from the Council for Higher Education show that tech-related majors were among the most widely chosen by the year 2022 at Israel’s institutes of higher education. Universities, as opposed to academic colleges, will enjoy most of this growth.

The number of students in higher education is going to shrink as it has in recent years, so that the increase will come at the expense of people majoring in business, law, the socials science and humanities.

The increase comes after the council adopted a 700 million shekel ($193 million at current exchange rates) program in 2015 to boost the number of students pursuing tech-related studies with incentives like extra financial aid for institutions that recruit more students and for the students themselves.

Universities now get 45,000 shekels per tech student from the council, up from 38,000 in 2015. Meanwhile, the aid for students studying business was cut to 15,000 from 18,000 shekels. The council allocated 100 million shekels for building new classrooms and other facilities needed for tech-related studies.

In addition, institutes of higher education got money to hire more faculty and for programs to deter students from dropping out. This year the council added new incentives, including a 1.5 million shekel annual grant to every institution that boosts enrolment in tech-related studies by more than 30 students.

The success of the program has prompted the Council of Higher Education to approve new incentives worth millions of shekels to Israel’s universities and colleges to recruit more students.

The growing enrollments are welcome news to the Israeli tech industry. A December report by Startup Nation Central and the Israel Innovation Authority estimated that the industry short about 15,000 skilled workers and that 15% of all job openings are unfilled even though pay in the sector is far above the average nationwide.

Today, just over 9,000 students are enrolled in their first year of a tech-related bachelors degree, 500 more than what officials had aimed for when the program got underway. All told, it marks more than a 25% increase from 2016, the first year that the program got underway

Officials said that demand continues to exceed space in tech-related programs. As a result, the number of tech students in bachelors’ programs is expected to reach more than 11,000 in 2022, instead of the 9,900 originally projected. That would mean the number of students will increase 55% since 2016, more than the 40% rise projected in the original plan – and double the number that were studying in 2011.

The biggest rise will be at the universities (65%), compared with the original projection of 40%, they said.

The number of first-year tech students in 2022 will be 5,640, the council predicts. Of those 42% will be studying computer science and another 23% electric and electronic engineering; 19% were enrolled in computer engineering and information systems and 16% were in programs that mix tech studies with other disciplines.

The figures don’t include those studying math, even though many who pursue degrees in that field go on to high-tech careers.

The growth in tech-related studies come amid a long-term trend away from the social sciences and humanities. A year ago, the council said that for the first time engineering was the most widely studied major.

The number had grown 50% in the previous six years while the number pursuing degrees in social sciences had declined 17%. It was the first time in the history of Israeli higher education that the social sciences was not the number one choice of students.

This year the council also launched a program to encourage double majors in a tech-related field with a non-tech field, such as social sciences. Tel Aviv University is the first to adopt the program.

Despite this, the council’s growing spending on tech-related studies is likely to arouse criticism from academics in other areas. The humanities is in crisis, but to date the council has not been able to implement a 100-million-shekel plan to help boost the field.