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For the week ending 13 August 2016 / 9 Av 5776

Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum College - Credits and Degrees

by Rabbi Shlomo Simon
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

One of the most commonly asked questions by parents of prospective students is: “What is the value of a Bachelor’s degree from Ohr Somayach?”

The answer is not a simple one. As to college credits, we have arrangements with some colleges and universities that will accept a certain amount of credits from us towards a degree from their institution. We are not accredited as a degree-granting institution by any accreditation agency in the US or Israel. Nevertheless, our credits and degrees have been accepted by numerous colleges and universities in the US, for both undergraduate and graduate purposes. Generally, undergraduate schools rely on their own evaluation of foreign institutions for accepting credits towards a bachelor’s degree. Graduate schools in the US regularly employ independent evaluation agencies when determining whether the undergraduate degree granted in a foreign country meets the standards of a school of higher education in the US. In this respect we are similar to universities in Europe, which are also not accredited in the US. The Ministry of Education of Israel, for reasons that one can only wonder about, has not yet adopted a policy of recognizing yeshivot as institutions of higher education. This policy makes it impossible for our graduates, and those of other yeshivot, to go to graduate school in Israel or to get college credit in Israel for any time spent here. Ironically enough, while Tel Aviv University and the Technion might have trouble accepting our students for their graduate schools, the University of Oxford has no such qualms. In fact, it recently awarded a full academic scholarship to one of our students.

​ ​This student, who has been in Ohr Somayach for the past seven years, has completed the Beit Midrash and Ohr LaGolah Programs, and has received his semicha (Rabbinical ordination) from Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, was awarded a BA and MA in Talmudic Law from Ohr Somayach. Although learning Torah is an integral part of his life, he had been involved in many business ventures before coming to the yeshiva, and plans to return to the world of business in the future. He thought that an MBA degree might add to his skill set and be useful in his future. He spoke to a number of universities and colleges in Israel, and all told him the same thing: Without a Bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution of higher learning he was wasting his time. And Ohr Somayach was not recognized by the Ministry of Education of Israel as an institution of higher learning. He heard about a highly-rated one year MBA Program focused on entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford in England, and decided to apply. After he submitted his application he received a very enthusiastic response from them. Because of his entrepreneurial background they were very interested in him, but had never heard of Ohr Somayach, and didn't know if they could accept his degree. The UK has an accreditation agency called NARIC, which determines such things as the validity of undergraduate degrees from foreign countries. In the case of Ohr Somayach, after doing their research, NARIC decided to leave it up to the discretion of the graduate school — Said Business School at the University of Oxford — where his degrees were unanimously accepted by the admissions committee. This same student was also awarded a full two-year academic scholarship, sponsored jointly by the University of Oxford and the Pershing Square Foundation.

Based mainly on his GRE exams scores, he was also invited to apply to ​the MBA programs at ​MIT, Yale​ and the PhD program at INSEAD (rated the top Business School in continental Europe), among many others. As to the question posed at the beginning of this article, "What is the value of a Bachelor’s degree from Ohr Somayach?” the answer is: It depends on how your son does on his GRE exams (or MCATS or LSATs), and where he wants to study. The top universities in the world will accept the degree for purposes of graduate education.

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