Student numbers at Ben-Gurion University have grown dramatically since its establishment 40 years ago with 500 to over 20,000 currently enrolled there and a recent survey shows that it is now Israel’s number one choice for undergraduates.
The student body, reflecting the unique mixture of ethnic backgrounds which typifies the Negev population, is further diversified by the presence of students from all over the country and new immigrants from all over the world. Jewish students and Arab ones, religious and secular live and study together and are supported by the dynamic Students Association – a body of students, for students.
With a clear founding mandate to go beyond its gates and work to promote social equality and development in the region, from the beginning the University encouraged students and faculty to live and work with the local community. In the early days there was no firm blueprint or plan how to proceed but the spirit of commitment and caring came to shape the very nature of the University – giving rise to hundreds of different outreach programmes that are active across the Negev today.
Perach, the hugely successful programme that has been serving educational and social needs in Israel for the last 33 years began at Ben-Gurion University. This project now involves students from all Israeli universities and colleges in cultural and educational activities with children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Perach’s student mentors work in all sectors of Israeli society- Jewish, Arab, secular and religious.
The Community Action Unit since its inception thirty years ago has served as a common ground for improving relations between low income residents living across the street from the University, its faculty and students. With the help of an outstanding benefactor from Germany, Dr.Heinz-Horst Deichmann, Ben-Gurion University is the only Israeli university with a building specifically designed to house such activities.
Centre for Bedouin Studies & Development
More than 180,000 Bedouins live in the Negev, making up 28% of the regional population. Close to 60% of them live below the poverty line. Knowing that education is the key solution to social and economic advancement and integration into Israeli society, Chairman Emeritus of the BGU Board of Governors and social visionary Robert H. Arnow created the Centre for Bedouin Studies and Development in 1997.
This centre provides special programmes for Bedouin high school students together with support aimed at increasing enrolment and successful completion of university studies. Today there are more than 300 Bedouin students, many pursuing advanced degrees in every Faculty.