BGU, southern colleges to create campus for ultra-orthodox students

Source: The Jerusalem Post, BGU, southern colleges to create campus for ultra-Orthodox students (

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev's Marcus Family Campus.(photo credit: DANI MACHLIS/BGU)

A new higher education campus for the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) Israelis living in the South will open up around October 2024.

A consortium led by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and several academic colleges has won a government tender to create a separate ultra-Orthodox campus in the South. This reflects a trend in which a growing number of haredim want to pursue a higher education, but under conditions in which their beliefs and religious observance won’t be compromised.

The campus is due to open as soon as possible, with studies expected to begin in October 2024. BGU, the Sami Shamoon College of Engineering, Sapir Academic College, Kaye College of Education, Hemdat Academic College, and Ashkelon Academic College will offer independent degrees at a separate location, which has yet to be determined. The South has a dense population of haredim, with an estimated 30% of ultra-Orthodox Jews living there.

The consortium will offer degrees in nursing, accounting, applied economics and management, technological marketing, education (including a teaching certificate), special education, industrial engineering and management, visual communications, software engineering, Talmud studies, computer science, and social work.

Beersheba’s BGU will run pre-academic programs to help those who do not meet admissions requirements. The plan will open the degree programs to women first and offer pre-academic programs to men to help them meet the acceptance thresholds.

Offering higher education to disadvantaged demographics

“BGU has offered underserved populations access to higher education since its founding, and we are eager to extend the same opportunities to the haredi community,” said BGU president Prof. Daniel Chamovitz. “Creating a haredi campus will contribute not only to the haredi communities that are thirsting for academia, but also significantly to society at large.”

Prof. Arye Rattner, president of Beersheba’s Kaye Academic College of Education, added that “as a college that has made it its mission to promote a pedagogy of diversity, justice, and inclusion, and even implements these principles on a daily basis in academic studies and teacher training processes, I am happy to be a partner in the project of establishing a campus for haredi society, which is a clear expression of these values.

“Imparting academic knowledge is a significant step toward integrating haredi society into the larger Israeli public, and we will continue to act and strengthen the project as necessary.”

Prof. Jehuda Haddad, rector and founder of the Shamoon College of Engineering in Beersheba and Ashdod, said: “Diversity in the employment market is a national mission that must be realized. We are happy to contribute the knowledge and experience we have accumulated over the years with the establishment of a haredi campus in the city of Ashdod to integrate and advance ultra-Orthodox society in the Israeli labor market.

“Once again, the college will contribute from its experience and the resources and knowledge it has accumulated in training haredi graduates in engineering professions. The common challenge of academic institutions in the South is important to society as a whole. I am confident that the joint move will reduce gaps in society, expand the employment opportunities of the haredi sector, and contribute to increasing the productivity of the Israeli economy.”

The president of Hemdat Academic College, College of Education in Sdot Negev and chairman of the Forum of Presidents of Colleges of Education (RAMA), Prof. Haim Shaked commented: “The integration of haredim in higher education is very important and vital for Israeli society, its economy and its future. To this end, frameworks must be established that will enable men and women from the haredi sector to study higher education at an appropriate academic level and in accordance with their lifestyle.

“For this reason, together with other academic institutions in the Negev, we are establishing the campus, which will offer the haredi population a variety of academic degrees in an atmosphere based on the values of haredi society. We are pleased to expand our academic work to additional sectors and develop in new directions.”

Dr. Pinhas Haliwa, CEO of Ashkelon Academic College, noted that his institution will be coming to Beersheba “with extensive experience in training haredim in social work and computer science.”

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