Choose to study in Israel, and you’ll find yourself at the heart of a diverse, dynamic and constantly developing culture.
During its 68 years of existence, Israel has fast developed into an economy one renowned for its high-tech development, innovation and entrepreneurship – gaining the nickname ‘the start-up nation’, with its own version of the US Silicon Valley, the Silicon Wadi.
Israel is especially known for innovation in the high-tech sector, and is reportedly home to more high-tech start-ups than any country other than the US – pretty impressive, considering its relatively small size and population. In recent years, Israel has also been touted as the world’s next major biotech hub.
As you’d expect with all this innovation and development going on, Israel has a strong selection of highly reputed universities – with strengths not just in science and technology subjects, but across the academic spectrum.
Education is highly valued within the national culture of Israel, and its higher education sector has been praised for helping to encourage the country’s economic development and recent technological boom. The high quality of Israel’s higher education system was also recognized in the QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings, published for the first time in 2016, in which it ranks as the world’s 28th strongest national system.
There are nine universities in Israel, as well as lots of higher education colleges; the main difference is that the universities offer degrees all the way up to doctorate level. Courses are often taught in Hebrew, but many leading Israeli universities also offer English-taught programs.
Of Israel’s nine universities, six are featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2016/2017. Here are the top four, all of which are in the global top 350:
Ranked 148th in 2016/17, Hebrew University of Jerusalem is consistently Israel’s highest-ranked university in the QS World University Rankings. It was founded in 1918, making it the second-oldest of universities in Israel. The Hebrew University has three campuses across Jerusalem, and a fourth in the city of Rehovot, with around 23,000 students in total. Most full degree programs are taught in Hebrew, but there is also a selection English-taught courses available, most at master’s level. The university’s Rothberg International School offers shorter study-abroad programs, and the university is home to the world’s largest Jewish studies library. Hebrew University features in the QS World University Ranking by Subject 2016 for 23 subjects, including the top 100 for anthropology, agriculture and forestry and history.
Tel Aviv University is currently ranked 212th in the world. It has over 30,000 students enrolled across nine faculties (including over 1,200 international students), making it Israel’s largest university. It was founded in 1956 and therefore celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. One of the most prestigious Israeli universities, it comes first in research output in the country and is ranked among the world’s best for 18 subjects, including the worldwide top 100 for archaeology.
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is ranked 213th in the world and is the oldest university in Israel, founded in 1912. Located in the city of Haifa, its main language of instruction is Hebrew, but the international department of the university offers courses taught entirely in English. Technion is ranked within the global top 300 for 12 subjects, including the top 100 for both computer science and mathematics, and the university has been hailed as an Israeli version of the US’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Ranked 320th in the world, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is located in the city of Beersheba in southern Israel. Home to 20,000 students across three campuses, it’s also ranked 18th in the QS Top 50 Under 50, a ranking of the world’s leading universities under 50 years old. Ben-Gurion University was originally founded in 1969 as the University of the Negev, but was renamed after the founder and first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, following his death in 1973.
The other two top universities in Israel to feature in the world university rankings 2016/17 are Bar-Ilan University (ranked in the 601-650 range this year) and the University of Haifa (ranked 651-700). Another Israeli university worth mentioning is the Weizmann Institute of Science. Although not included in the world university rankings as it teaches only at postgraduate level, the institute has a strong reputation in the sciences. It features in the QS World University Rankings by Subject in the top 250 for five science subjects, including the top 100 for biological sciences.
Ready to study in Israel? Find out more about some of the country’s top universities and major cities.
Israel’s largest city by population (with around 850,000 residents) and the governmental seat, Jerusalem is located in the center of the country. Deeply historic, it’s considered one of the world’s oldest cities, and holds significance for three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Though chiefly known for its historical significance, it’s also home to many artistic and cultural venues, including the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo and the Jerusalem Cinematheque.
Jerusalem is home to several prestigious universities, offering courses in Hebrew, Arabic and English. This includes Israel’s highest-ranking and second-oldest university, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (148th in the QS World University Rankings 2016/17). Other institutes of higher education in Jerusalem include Al-Quds University (which also has campuses in Abu Dis and al-Bireh), and the Jerusalem College of Technology.
Israel’s second-largest city by population, and its largest metropolitan area, Tel Aviv is known for its nightlife, young population and 24-hour culture. It’s nicknamed ‘The White City’ – a reference to the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, a famous collection of over 4,000 buildings designed in a unique Bauhaus style. Tel Aviv also has a reputation for technological research and innovation, and is Israel’s financial capital, home to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. With beautiful Mediterranean beaches lining its western limits, it’s pretty easy to see why Tel Aviv is one of the most-visited cities in the Middle East.
Haifa is Israel’s third-largest city and largest port, located towards the north of the country and taking the role of the region’s cultural hub. Like Tel Aviv, Haifa has a Mediterranean coastline with beautiful beaches. It’s also close to the Carmel mountain range, and home to the Bahá'í World Centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its beautiful gardens (pictured). Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is joined here by the University of Haifa, as well as Matam, one of Israel’s largest high-tech research centers.
Also called Beersheba, Be’er Sheva is home to Ben-Gurion University, and is the largest city in the Negev Desert region, to the south of Jerusalem. Again, it’s a city packed with history and cultural diversity. It’s particularly known for its Bedouin market, which today sells a mixture of modern-day goods alongside traditional Bedouin crafts. Ben-Gurion has around 20,000 students, and like all Israel’s top universities, has a good selection of programs for international students.
One final student city to consider is Rehovot, about 20km to the south of Tel Aviv, which is home to the Weizmann Institute of Science. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem also has a campus in Rehovot, housing its faculties of agriculture, food, environment and veterinary medicine.
There is no centralized application system for universities in Israel, so you’ll need to apply directly to your chosen university, providing the required documents and following the instructions stated on the institution’s official website. You may need to take a psychometric entrance test as part of the admissions process, which will test your quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning and English language skills.
To study in Israel for a period of more than three months, a student visa (A2 visa) is needed. Visa applications should be submitted to the nearest Israeli consulate at least three months ahead of intended arrival in Israel.
To apply for an Israeli student visa, you will need:
· A letter of acceptance from an Israeli university
· A passport valid at least six months beyond your intended visit duration
· Two passport-sized photos
· Proof of sufficient finances to cover the duration of your stay
· A completed visa application form, available here
· Visa processing fee (US$46)
International students also need to have health insurance for the length of their studies. This may be provided by the university, included within the tuition fees, or it may be necessary to purchase insurance privately. It’s also important to note that you’re unable to work in Israel with your student visa.
Tuition fees in Israel vary depending on your level of study and university, but generally you will pay around US$9,000-15,000 per year at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Living costs are also relatively affordable, with about US$10,500 needed for each year of study. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will be the most expensive cities in which to rent accommodation.
The official languages in Israel are Hebrew and Arabic. English is also widely spoken, and is a compulsory subject in Israeli schools up to high school. Russian is also widely spoken, and Israeli society in general is fairly multilingual, with significant groups speaking many different languages from across Europe and Asia.
Israeli universities teach primarily in Hebrew, but many also offer a growing selection of English-taught programs. These range from short-term study abroad and exchange programs, to full degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.
Israel has had its fair share of conflict over the years, but despite its reputation for being war-torn, the country attracted a record 3.54 million tourists in 2013. As of June 2016, there is currently a high threat from terrorism, and safety measures such as routine searches are in place to protect both citizens and visitors. It’s advisable to keep up to date with current events in the area, avoid large gatherings or demonstrations, and carry photo ID at all times.