Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is ideally situated in Beer Sheva, a rapidly growing city with a population of about 200,000 that is considered the capital of Israel's Negev, the southern region of Israel. The climate is semi-arid desert, with relatively low humidity and rainfall.
Student enrollment has increased from some 500 in 1969 to over 20,000 in 2011. The student body, reflecting the unique mixture of ethnic backgrounds which typifies the Negev region population, is further diversified by the enrollment of students from all other parts of the country, including new immigrants to Israel from all over the world. Most Israeli students begin their undergraduate studies after service in the Israel Defense Forces, which creates a more mature, serious-minded student body than one would normally find in universities in other countries.
A diverse group of scholars and scientists, many of them prominent in their fields, constitutes the staff of the University. New immigrants, many from the former Soviet Union and from North America, fill academic posts, and, together with renowned visiting lecturers from abroad, contribute a continuous input of fresh ideas and the latest state-of-the-art research in their respective fields of expertise. The relatively low student-to-faculty ratio allows for a personal rather than an institutionalized approach to learning. Professors whose extracurricular activities may include service as editors of professional journals, consultants to industry, or advisors to government, banks, the school system or social agencies, bring added experience and professional sophistication to this instruction.
Since its inception, one of the University's primary goals has been the intimate involvement with neighbouring communities, to provide practical assistance to the development of the Negev region, its industries, towns, and social infrastructure. In practical terms, this means that beyond fulfilling the traditional objectives of an educational institution for higher learning, university faculties, research facilities and students are committed to services which are clearly relevant to social needs, improvement and change - particularly those committed to developing the Negev desert region. Both faculty and students can be found outside the micro-environment of classrooms and research laboratories, teaching, learning real-world systems, and, in general, contributing to the betterment of their macro-environment.
With its orientation toward campus-community interaction, students as well as faculty are involved in activities that will benefit the Negev region in particular, and the country and world in general. Research or coursework in the humanities and social sciences may take students to such diverse places as kibbutzim, immigrant absorption centers, or urban renewal projects. Students in the natural and desert sciences work on problems of immediate importance to society that include environmental problems, strategies for plant, animal and human adaptation to arid zones, genetic engineering, and applications of biotechnology to industry. Engineering majors may focus their studies on optimization of chemical processes, control and simulation of flight, or nuclear reactors and solar energy plants and their utilization in industry and agriculture.
Students in the health professions make an impact in several fields from their first year of studies, including laboratory research in basic science fields such as cancer diagnostics, nutrition, and medical microbiology, by helping to change methods of health care delivery in the area, and by community action projects such as lecturing on health topics in high schools.
Programs of Study
Each Faculty offers a variety of "tracks" or programs of study leading to degrees. In addition, three special tracks for the PhD degree are offered in many subjects:
- The normal track - Academic degree programs are pursued in a step-by- step order: Bachelor degree, Master's degree, PhD degree.
- The combined track - Students who have demonstrated superior ability in their undergraduate studies may be permitted to combine their Master's degree research and their PhD thesis. They must, however, fulfill all degree credits for the Master's degree program.
- The direct track - This track bypasses the Master's program altogether, proceeding straight from Bachelor's degree to PhD program. Applicants for this track must have demonstrated especially superior capabilities in their undergraduate studies.