From a “Society of Scholars” to a Credential Society? The Perceptions of Ultra-Orthodox Students in Israel, regarding HigherEducation and its Influence on Work and Family – a Gender Perspective

  • The authors:
    Yael Yossel Eisenbach
    Sylvie Fogiel Bijaoui
  • Issue: July 24-26th, 2019
  • Pages: 51-56
  • URL:
  • DOI:

Abstract. Higher education, the heart of the credential race, is a threatening challenge for ultra-orthodox students (Paredes-Collins, 2014). For these students, who live in sectarian religious communities, higher education is viewed with suspicion, as it is associated with forces of destructive potential for their community and identity (Bowman and Smedley 2013; Cole and Ahmadi 2010; Dey et al. 2010; Hartley 2004; Mooney 2010; Pascarella and Terenzini 2011; Zhao 2017). Quite strangely, despite a growing corpus of research on highly religious students pursuing higher education, very little is known about their motivation and experiences and about the policies adopted by academic institutions to cater for their needs. In this paper, we present findings from a study conducted among UltraOrthodox students at an academic college at the center of Israel. The fieldwork was conducted during 2016 and consists of interviews with 132 students, 77 women (58,3%) and 55 men (41,7%). Findings presented here highlight the perceptions of these students, regarding higher education and its influence on work and family. The students come from “a community of scholars” (Hevrat Lomdim), where most men devote their lives to the study of the sacred texts, while women are entrusted with the dual role of caring for the home and supporting the family. However, due to increasing levels of poverty, they are also part of a growing flux of Ultra-Orthodox Israelis, who pursue academic degrees in order to join the labor force. Our data show that Ultra-Orthodox students, both women and men, pursue higher education mostly for economic purposes, i.e. in order to support their family, together with intrinsic motives such as self-fulfillment and intellectual curiosity. However, gender differences were found in students’ perceptions of the contribution of their academic study to integration into the labor market. It was found that Haredi women more than men perceive academic studies as a path that will contribute to their integration into the labor market. These findings reflect the growing impact of credentialism among Haredi women.
After analyzing the implications these findings may have for the students, the Haredi community and educational policies in Israel, we refer, in our conclusion, to the impact credentialism has on religious communities in the “Global Village”.
Keywords: Higher education, ultra-orthodox students, gender, redentialism

Yael Yossel Eisenbach¹, Sylvie Fogiel Bijaoui²
1 The Israel Academic College, Ramat Gan, Israel,
ORCID ID: 0000-0003-4522-9952
2 The Israel Academic College, Ramat Gan, Israel,

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