Determining Equivalencies for Bachelor’s Degrees from Israel: An Evaluator’s Conundrum

 

IEM SPOTLIGHT NEWSLETTER, VOL. 14, Summer ISSUE - August 2017

By: William Bellin, Educational Credential Evaluators

For those who are of the mindset that the composition of a U.S. bachelor’s degree consists of general education requirements and a concentration in one or more subjects called a “major,” culminating in a specified amount of credit hours satisfied over at least four years of study, then evaluating bachelor’s degrees from Israel can pose several challenges. In Israel, in addition to bachelor’s degrees of varying duration, there are a variety of types of institutions, including state public, state religious, and private, that are overseen by several branches of the government.

Higher education in Israel is principally governed by the Council for Higher Education (CHE) and the Planning and Budgeting Committee (PBC). The CHE is the government body responsible for higher education provisions, including program approval and recognition status. The PBC provides financing and funding for most higher education institutions. However, there are some teacher training institutions that are budgeted by and operate under the authorization of the Ministry of Education but are listed among the CHE-approved institutions.

Higher Education Institutions

Under the auspices of the CHE and the Ministry of Education, higher education is offered at universities, teacher training colleges, and other institutions of higher education. Higher education institutions are autonomous in conducting their academic and administrative affairs. The minimum admission requirement to access postsecondary education in Israel is the Matriculation Certificate, also known as the Teudat Bagrut. A student who has not earned the Matriculation Certificate or has low grades may gain access to undergraduate study by taking preparatory courses at the institution to which the candidate is seeking admission, by applying to the Open University, or by resitting the Bagrut examinations. At most institutions, the standard school year comprises two 14-week semesters.

There are seven state universities that are identified as research institutions and two additional state universities that are not designated as research facilities. All of the state institutions are authorized to award bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, while the research institutions can also conduct research in the sciences and arts. Teaching colleges listed with the CHE do not undertake research and some are authorized to award bachelor of education and master of education degrees. Likewise, there are other institutions of higher education that do not undertake research and usually offer degrees in a limited selection of subjects at the bachelor’s and master’s levels only.

Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree

Bachelor’s degrees (Boger) require three to six years to complete, depending on the major area of study. In general, degrees offered at the nine state universities require a minimum of three years of study to graduate. Completion of at least 120 units (180 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System [ECTS] credits/90 U.S. credits) is typically required in order to earn a three-year bachelor’s degree. Summative and formative assessments comprise written work, which may include essays, seminar papers, laboratory work, and end-of-semester examinations. Some bachelor’s degrees require a dissertation or supervised research paper. The medium of instruction in most institutions and fields of study is Hebrew.

Unlike bachelor’s degrees in the United States, bachelor’s degrees in Israel are not only completed in three years but the curriculum does not include general education requirements (GERs). GERs provide a breadth of study, while major subjects provide a depth of study. The Israeli bachelor’s degree is focused on depth of study and is less inclined for scope or extent. In a business administration program, for example, a student would not be required to enroll in an arts course such as music or art history. Instead, a student would spend three years focused primarily on subjects within his or her area of study, such as management, marketing, finance, accounting, etc. The bachelor of science and bachelor of arts degrees are three-year programs with either a single major area of study supplemented by a few electives or two major areas of study. The structure and curriculum of a bachelor’s degree in Israel dictates that students begin to specialize in their major area of study from the first year onward.

Given that three-year degree programs in Israel lack GERs, questions then arise regarding how that might affect students’ eligibility to U.S. graduate programs. For example, does a graduate with a three-year bachelor of arts in business administration (BBA) degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem hold a qualification sufficient for admission to a U.S. master’s degree program? A holder of a BBA degree in Israel would have taken approximately three years of business and business-related courses but may not have necessarily met what has traditionally been considered a bachelor’s degree in the United States. At many institutions in the United States, students cannot graduate with a bachelor’s degree or apply for a master’s degree until the credits for their liberal arts or sciences courses have been satisfied.

Four-Year Bachelor’s Degree

While most of the Israeli bachelor’s degrees in the arts and sciences consist of three years of study, bachelor’s degrees in professional fields, including agriculture, engineering, law, nursing, and pharmacy, require four years of full-time study. During the first year of these programs, students are introduced to their focused area of study or provided fundamentals in the sciences. At the end of the four years, the students’ resulting academic credentials correspond to the particular field of study, for example, the bachelor of laws (LLB), bachelor of nursing (BSN), etc.

The bachelor of education degree at the teaching colleges that are recognized by the CHE requires four years of study, while education programs at the state universities require three years to complete. Both degrees prepare the student to teach in early childhood, elementary, or secondary classrooms and provide access to master’s degree programs. In both cases, a student is awarded a bachelor of education; however, from the perspective of a U.S. bachelor’s degree, only the four-year degree from the teaching colleges that are recognized by the CHE compares to a U.S. four-year bachelor of education degree.

There are also teaching institutions funded by the state that provide training specifically for religion teachers. The Ministry of Education lists these institutions among the CHE-approved institutions for providing recognized higher education programs. Not all of the colleges can award bachelor of education degrees, however. Some provide Qualified Teacher Certificates and Senior Qualified Teacher Certificates. These three-year credentials allow graduates to teach at ultra-orthodox (Haredi) elementary and lower secondary schools.

Professional Degrees

As for the other professional fields that require the Teudat Bagrut for admission, such as architecture, dental surgery, and veterinary medicine, these programs comprise five or six years of full-time study. Medicine programs require seven years of study and include a one-year internship. The doctor of medicine (MD) degree is awarded upon completion of the clinical internship. The doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree is awarded upon completion of the academic requirements. The DVM requires completion of the first two years of a bachelor of science degree, followed by four years of study in veterinary medicine.

Religious Institutions

This brief discussion of undergraduate study in Israel must include a glimpse of the religious institutions that operate outside the oversight of the CHE but within the framework of the Ministry of Education. Religious institutions, including Yeshiva and Midrasha, are recognized by the Ministry of Education as certified academic institutions. They have special supervision from the Ministry of Education that assures that the quality of education given by the institution is equivalent to the standards enforced at universities. These religious institutions have the authority to grant first degrees in Talmudic law, Jewish philosophy, theology, and rabbinic studies. Advanced programs grant second degrees in law.

Under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, the Department of Advanced Religious Education requires that the religious institution has clear and comprehensive written guidelines, provides that any educational program for academic credit will include everything necessary in terms of evaluation plans and learning outcomes, has defined a policy for evaluating student achievements, assumes responsibility for the academic quality of each course paper or credit for record-keeping of the institution, and upholds an academic policy that maintains principles of good educational practices.

Graduates from religious institutions can be granted deferral from military service and can be awarded transfer credit into LLB programs. Many universities have articulated agreements that stipulate the exemptions to deferral as well as the transfer credits a graduate may be granted. In general, though, the religious institutions in this category operate outside the broader educational system. Their acceptance into the mainstream Israeli educational system often depends, controversially, on contemporaneous political and societal views.

Conclusion

In this brief survey of bachelor’s degrees and undergraduate programs in Israel, it is clear that the higher education system is complex due to the variety of its components. The issue of credential evaluation is made further complicated given that most officials at the Israeli universities would argue that the three-year bachelor’s degree offered in Israel is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree. Whether their argument is accurate remains a question and is open to debate. Whether a bachelor’s degree in Israel grants a student admission to a master’s degree at a U.S. institution probably depends on the admission requirements of the university. On the one hand, given its focused content, an Israeli three-year degree probably prepares a student to successfully complete a U.S. graduate program. On the other hand, one could also argue that three years of study is not equivalent to four years of study even if the content is highly specialized. And therein lies the rub.


Resources

Aharoni, M., and Y. Lidor, eds. 2009. The CHE & PBC Report (Hebrew) 34/35. Jerusalem, Israel.

Azulay, Yoav, Assaf Ashkenazi, Livnat Gabrielov, Daniel Levi-Mazloum, and Ran Ben Dov. 2013. Facts and Figures in the Education System. Jerusalem, Israel: State of Israel, Ministry of Education. Economics and Budgeting Administration. http://meyda.education.gov.il/files/minhalcalcala/facts.pdf.

Ben-David, Dan. 2010. “Israel’s Education System: An International Perspective and Recommendations for Reform” in State of the Nation Report: Society, Economy and Policy in Israel 2009, ed. Dan Ben-David. Jerusalem, Israel: Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel. http://taubcenter.org.il/wp-content/files_mf/fullreport.pdf.

Council for Higher Education, http://www.che.org.il.

Davidovitch, Nitza, and Yaakov Iram. 2015. “Models of Higher Education Governance: A Comparison of Israel and Other Countries.” Global Journal of Educational Studies 1, 1:16–44. doi:10.5296/gjes.v1i1.7556.

Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). 2012. Higher Education in Israel. Brussels, Belgium: Tempus Programme. http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/tempus/participating_countries/overview/israel_tempus_country_fiche_final.pdf.

Iram, Yaacov. 1987. “Quality and Control in Higher Education in Israel.” European Journal of Education 22, 2:145–159.

Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption. 2012. Education, 6th edition. Jerusalem, Israel: Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption.

Ministry of Education, http://cms.education.gov.il.

Ministry of Education. 2017. “Michlalot: Teacher Colleges by Region” (Hebrew) http://cms.education.gov.il/EducationCMS/Units/HachsharatOvdeyHoraa/Michlalot/.

The Planning and Budgeting Committee, Council for Higher Education. 2014. The Higher Education System in Israel. Jerusalem, Israel: The Planning and Budgeting Committee, Council for Higher Education. http://che.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/HIGHER-EDUCATION-BOOKLET.pdf.

Wolff, Laurence, with Elizabeth Breit. 2012. Education in Israel: The Challenges Ahead. College Park, MD: The Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies. http://www.israelstudies.umd.edu/pdf/Larry%20Wolff%20Research%20Paper%20-%20May%202012.pdf.


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