By Angelos Anastasiou
THE government is planning to clamp down on foreign students who enter Cyprus to study, only to abandon their studies and remain in the country to work illegally.
Suggestions by a ministerial committee include a seven-year cap on the duration of studies and relate only to third-country nationals – students from countries other than EU-member states. Universities would be given a two-year transition period to harmonise their operations.
Additionally, eligible university candidates will need to fulfil specific academic criteria, including a minimum 50 per cent school-leaving English language mark, or a general pass-mark – 50 per cent – on their school-leaving certificate and at least a 5 mark IELTS certificate.
The proposals, reported in Politis on Monday, also include a clause transferring the responsibility of certifying such students’ travel documents to their countries’ consulate in Cyprus, and of their academic credentials to the education ministry. Each student’s criminal record and health certificate must be issued by the competent government authority in his or her home country.
Private universities will also be allowed to enrol third-country students up to 10 per cent of their education ministry-approved capacity, given the school does not exceed its capacity maximum. The responsibility for checking that universities maintain their capacity caps will lie with the education ministry in collaboration with the migration and the civil registry departments, which will assume the obligation to provide the ministry with political asylum applications, fake marriages, illegal employment, and criminal activity for each school.
Private universities will also be obliged to report their class call sheets to the education ministry, in order to establish whether the 70 per cent mandatory attendance minimum is complied with. Following a review, the list of names of third-country students that fail to attend 70 per cent of their classes without a valid medical justification will be forwarded to the migration and civil registry departments.
Strict measures holding private universities accountable for such instances are also included in the proposals. Specifically, third-country students abandoning their studies will still be counted in the university’s 10 per cent quota, with no right of replacement until the registered student’s programme study is over.
Additionally, private universities are obliged to refund tuition fees to all registered students who have abandoned their studies or have applied for political asylum, or have engaged in criminal activity.