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Monday, September 8, 2008

US schools encouraging Israeli 'brain drain'

US universities are sending a record-breaking number of headhunters to scout for Israeli scholars dissatisfied with Israel's higher education, amounting to a significant rise in immigration
Yaheli Moran Zelikovich
Published:  09.08.08, 00:55 / Israel News
"Studying in Israel means you're compromising," says Nili Lerner, an MBA student at Tel Aviv University. Like Lerner, a great many Israeli students have their sights, and hearts, set on America's prestigious business schools.

Next week the students will see a record-breaking number of US college scouts at an MBA convention aimed at creating connections between American schools and Israeli scholars. The brain drain, it would seem, has reached a whole new level.
"Israeli students have proven themselves to be excellent scholars on an academic level, with outstanding motivational and social skills, some of which are acquired during army service," says Galit Edsman, and advisor for the US-Israel Educational Foundation (USIEF).

In return for crossing the Atlantic, the universities provide students with the mandatory paperwork and ease admissions, prioritizing interviews rather than GMAT grades, for example. Another way to woo Israeli applicants, Edsman claims, is to drop the names of famous American companies such as McKenzie and Citibank.

The foundation's convention has drawn headhunters from many top-notch universities such as MIT, Duke, and Harvard. But there are still a number of admissions obstacles Israelis may have a hard time handling.

"The major obstruction was the GMAT," says Lerner. "Had I gotten a good enough grade in English I would have wanted to study abroad – but only at a good university."

There are currently 3,000 Israelis studying in the US. Tal Reisenfeld, a Harvard graduate who returned to Israel, explained the attraction. "You form business connections with people in international companies, much more than in Israel," he said.

"Every school wants Israeli representation. At Harvard they constitute five out of every 900 students. I am an example of a brain that wasn't 'drained', but a lot of people stay there in order to reimburse their financial investment."

Struggling to keep up
Israel is struggling with the brain drain, which is slowly eroding the country's higher education. Tel Aviv University's Dr. Dan Ben-David has published a study called, 'Soaring Minds: The Flight of Israel's Economists', in which he demonstrates that the country's scholarly emigration rate is 4-6 times higher than other Western countries.
But Israel is also attempting to attract foreign students to its own quarters. The Israel Institute for Technology, for example, has established an entire division awaiting the flocking immigrants.

"Israeli universities are well-ranked," says Galit Eisman, of the Council for Higher Education. "But foreign exchange programs are not really working – people are not arriving and there are not many programs encouraging them to do so. This is why we have decided to establish more English-language courses, which are also necessary for Israeli students."

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