Yigal Allon – Minister of Education
1969 – 1974

The Open University of Israel traces its roots to 1969 when Yigal Allon was appointed Minister of Education by Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Allon was determined to make a significant change in higher education in Israel, using as his model, the newly established Open University in the UK, which broadened access to higher education and utilized modern distance learning approaches and methods.

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Allon initiated a two-pronged process – he encouraged the Israeli government to study the issue and he enlisted the support of the Rothschild Foundation, one of Israel’s most generous benefactors both before and after independence.

Dorothy de Rothschild – Founding Chancellor of the Open University

The Lipson Committee on Post-Secondary Education, appointed by the Council for Higher Education, and the Schramm Commission, created by the Rothschild Foundation, both recommended the establishment of an open university. They found that substantial sectors of the population interested in pursuing a higher education were underserved, impeded by such obstacles as:

  • residence distant from conventional universities
  • responsibilities of family and work
  • limitations of time and funds
  • lack of opportunity

A flexible study method, the commissions concluded, transcending these obstacles could bring higher education to new populations, whenever and wherever sought.  With these reports in hand and upon Allon’s recommendation, the Government of Israel officially established the Open University of Israel in 1973. The Rothschild Foundation generously assumed all financial responsibility for its inception and early years of development, on the condition that the Israeli government would subsequently assume this responsibility alongside the Open University’s sister universities.

Max Rowe, Director of the Rothschild Foundation in Israel who became founding President of the Open University in 1974.

In 1974 the Open University, then called “Everyman’s University” in English, was established and began operation in 1976.  Max Rowe, Director-General of the Rothschild Foundation, served as the University’s first President during early development, and was succeeded as President in 1977 by Professor Abraham Ginzburg, formerly Vice President of the Technion. OUI opened on October 17, 1976 with 2,200 students enrolled in the five offered courses in Earth Science, Jewish Life, Life Sciences, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences. Today more than 45,000 students study over 700 different courses.

41 students received the University’s first Bachelor’s Degrees on September 6, 1982. Since than more than 34,000 have earned undergraduate diplomas and 2,500 Master’s degrees, first offered in 1996.

Learn more about OUI by visiting the Milestones and Facts & Figures pages.