Israels new colleges open doors to business and practical studies

If present trends continue, there are likely to be more colleges than falafel stands in Israel.

That's because the older colleges and universities, though they have expanded significantly in recent years, still don't have room for all the Israelis who want a post-secondary education.

Until many new colleges opened, young men and women who couldn't get into a university or department of their choice had no choice but to continue their education overseas.

But many students who could not afford to travel had to forgo a college education altogether. Furthermore, half of those who did go abroad stayed there.

But in the past few years colleges have cropped up in Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Rishon Lezion, Herzliya and a dozen other places, meeting a real need even if not always offering education that matches the quality of older institutions such as Hebrew University, the Technion or Tel Aviv University.

These new institutions concentrate almost entirely on "practical studies," which hopefully prepare their students to get a job when they graduate. They teach such skills as law, fashion design, accounting and computing. Students interested in political science, Greek philosophy, Jewish folklore or art history are advised to go elsewhere.

Potential enrollees, however, must be careful to read the small print in the eye-catching ads the new schools take out at the start of each school year.

For not every place that calls itself a "college" is recognized by Israel's Council for Higher Education, and the diploma from schools that lack official standing is worth no more than the mail-order degrees advertised in some U.S. periodicals.

Several new and apparently serious initiatives in the post-secondary sphere were announced just this month, including the establishment of no less than three institutions to prepare men and women to work in real estate (a multibillion-dollar field that people could enter, until now, without being either trained or licensed). Several large real estate companies and two universities will cooperate.

Still more ambitious is the plan to create a Tel Aviv International School of Management, which plans to award a master's degree in business administration. So far the Council for Higher Education has given the organizers permission to begin operations next September, subject to the fulfillment of various obligations. The school's status will be re-examined annually for a five-year trial period.

Planned as a profit-making institution, the school will have an annual tuition fee of $18,000, five times that of regular Israeli universities but less than what students pay at private schools of business administration in the United States.

The language of instruction will be English, which will ease the way for foreign students and — so the organizers hope — for a significant number of Palestinians. Be that as it may, the school will have to attract a good many Israelis if it is to succeed.

The demand, in any case, is there. This year, for example, 750 young men and women with high undergraduate grade averages applied for the Hebrew University's MBA program, but less than 200 were accepted.

The Tel Aviv International School of Management, if it gets off the ground, could be an alternative for at least some of them.