The Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University are closing their doors to Ethiopian students, especially those wishing to study in prestigious programs, Ethiopian activists and university graduates say.
These two universities consider the psychometric exam as the decisive factor in accepting students, thus significantly reducing the number of Ethiopian students compared to the other universities.
Immanuel Hadana, a prosecutor in the military advocate general's office, graduated in 2000 with a first degree in law from TAU. The law program initially refused to accept him because his psychometric grade was lower than required by the entrance threshold. Only after repeated appeals - appearing before a committee and approaching the top university officials - did the program agree to accept him.
"My attempts to enter the law study program in TAU took more time than the studies themselves," he says.
Hadana was recently invited to speak at the Knesset's Immigration and Absorption Committee about the success in the absorption of the Ethiopian immigrants.
He told the committee that the university management had asked him to praise its success in accepting immigrants from Ethiopia at a talk to university contributors and trustees.
"I was the second student (of Ethiopian origin) at the university. I remember a conference where they wanted me to say there was a 100 percent rise in the number of Ethiopian students at TAU. I objected," he says.
TAU, with its 28,000 students, is the largest university in Israel. In 2002-2003, only 32 Ethiopian students studied there. At Hebrew University, the second largest, there were 26 Ethiopian students at that time. The number of students at the Technion in Haifa, which is considered a relatively small, elitist institution, was 49. Altogether, 441 Ethiopian students studied at the six large universities in 2002-2003, 30 percent (128) at Bar Ilan and some 40 percent (174) in Haifa.
"I am not ashamed to say that Hebrew University and TAU are `snobbish' universities that refuse to accept the immigrants from Ethiopia," Israel Radio's Amharic program director Zaga Malko told the Knesset committee.