Title: ‘We Can’t Be in Our Whole Selves’: Palestinian Arab Undergraduate Students’ Experiences in Israeli Universities
Stream: Higher Education
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Lamma Mansour, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Equal opportunity and access to higher education (HE) are recognized as human rights in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Progress has been made to protect this right across the world, yet the underrepresentation and under-achievement of certain population groups in HE continue to exist in many societies. Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel (PAI) are one such group. The rate of PAIs entering Israeli HE has doubled in the past decade but remains under-representative, while attrition rates are disproportionately high. This paper explores the experiences of PAI undergraduate students as an indigenous ethnic-minority group on Israeli campuses. To that end, seven focus groups were conducted with PAI undergraduate students and recent graduates of six research universities in Israel. These discussions were transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed based on the six phases of Braun and Clarke (2006). The findings show that PAIs experience physical, cultural and academic disorientation upon entering HE caused by a sharp transition to a foreign, often hostile environment. They generally have trouble keeping pace with other students due to systematic barriers including language, age differences and unfriendly university environments. There is also, however, evidence of resilience and hope. This paper concludes by arguing against prevailing deficit-based discourses regarding marginalized groups in HE, and demonstrates the necessity of reimagining an academic space that empowers students from all backgrounds and is enriched by them.
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