The Dirasat Center Calls Upon Universities to Cancel the Minimum Age Requirements, which Prevent Arab Students at the age of 18 from Registering for those Courses of Study Most Desirable to the Arab Population in Israel
Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy, calls on universities in Israel to cancel the minimum age requirement system, which for years has been used as a prerequisite for acceptance to many university departments in all of Israel's universities. A memo published by Dirasat at the start of this academic year determined that the rule by which only students ages 19 or 20 and over are qualified for acceptance to certain departments constitutes "prohibited discrimination on the basis of national origin" against Arab youth and violates basic rights and liberties, including the right to education and the freedom of occupation.
A further examination of the system by Dirasat revealed that the minimum age requirements are implemented by universities primarily in the medical schools (at Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University in Be'er Sheva), in the clinical professions in the health field (such as nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy), and in social work schools (at the universities in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Be'er Sheva). According to Dirasat, the fact that these age limits do not apply to 18 year-olds that have been accepted into the IDF academic program, allowing young people to postpone army service in order to study a professional trade and then use it in the army (such as law or medicine), severely harms the Arab population because it creates a deficiency in Arabic speaking clinical professionals – not to mention a lack of clinical professionals that understand Arab-Palestinian cultural sensitivities and are more likely to work in their own communities.
These professions are also the highest in demand by Arab students, who find themselves faced with two unfavorable choices: either to postpone their studies by two years, during which they may face life circumstances that will distance them further from entering the university, or to simply surrender their academic aspirations altogether.
Dirasat draws attention to the fact that the minimum age requirements serve as an additional barrier to university acceptance for Arab students in Israel, whose performance on the Psychometric exams required for entry is on average significantly lower than their Jewish peers due to clear cultural biases in the exams. As a result, while the Arab population in Israel comprises nearly 20 percent of the population, the overall percentage of Arab students at Israeli universities stands at a mere 9.05%; the percentage of Arabs among the senior faculty is only 1.4% (64 out of 4,576 total professors and lecturers in the country).
Dirasat critiques the universities' position, which has been to rationalize this age requirement bias by claiming that young people at the age of 18 are not "emotionally prepared" to handle studies in these particular professions, on the basis that this claim stands in direct contradiction with the longstanding policy of allowing students in the army academic program to study the clinical professions at the age of 18, and moreover finds no justification in either Israeli law or in the policies of academic institutions the world over.
For the full version of the Dirasat's memo (in Hebrew): Dirasat_Age_Limit_2010.pdf