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Israel: Medical schools lead decline in applications to universities

A Tel Aviv University medical student at health fair.

A Tel Aviv University medical student at health fair.

The drop in medical school applicants was so large that for the first time in years, the rate of acceptance was not the lowest among all areas of study.

The number of students applying to study medicine at the country’s universities plunged 14.2% for the 2011-2012 academic year from a year earlier, leading a trend of falling university enrollments, according to figures from the Higher Education Council.

Statistics said the number of people applying for places at the universities dropped 2.5% for the current year, while there was a 1.1% drop in the number who were accepted.

The drop in medical school applicants was so large that for the first time in years, the rate of acceptance was not the lowest among all areas of study. That honor went to architecture programs, where the rate of acceptance was 25%, versus 27.5% for medical school.

The higher rate of acceptance for medicine partly reflects the opening of a new medical school in Safed, the council said. But the major factor was that only 1,600 people applied for places, compared with 1,865 last year. Of those, 440 were admitted, down from 455 last year.

But Eran Leitersdorf, dean of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine and chairman of the medical faculty deans’ forums, said the council’s figures didn’t reflect actual interest in medical studies. Medical programs used a weighted index of matriculation (bagrut ) and psychometric exam scores to consider applicants, and fewer potential applicants meet the standard to apply, he said.

Other academic programs also suffered declining demand. For social work, the number of applicants dropped 15.5% for the current academic year from 2010-2011. About 55% of all applicants to social worker programs at the universities were accepted, the council said.

Both declines, which were the sharpest among academic programs, appear to have been linked to labor disputes occurring at the time applicants were considering programs.

According to an analysis conducted by TheMarker, the number of students in bachelor’s programs at academic colleges soared from 2008 to 2011, while university enrollments held steady and even declined at the biggest institutions.

The decline in university applications was nearly across the board, the exceptions being electrical and electronics engineering (which was unchanged ), and computer science (which rose 2% ). For those programs, the acceptance rate in bachelor’s programs was 53% and 54%, respectively.

Applications for humanities programs were unchanged at 1,980, with three-quarters of all applicants getting accepted, the council said. Accounting programs saw applications drop 7% and economics programs fell by 3.3%. Psychology applications were off 2% from last year. Only one out of every 1.6 applicants gets into a psychology program and only one out of every 1.7 gets into accounting or economics.

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