The University of Cyprus’ decision to extend spring-semester enrolment for army conscripts concluding their service this month to private-school graduates stirred up controversy at the House education committee on Wednesday.
Following the government’s last year decision to cut the mandatory 24-month army service for all males of school-leaving age to 14 months, a nine-month vacuum was created for the group that had just been called up, as it was scheduled for release in January 2017 but university enrolment typically takes place in September.
Catering to this group, the UCy promptly announced it would be creating a special introductory spring semester for the released soldiers who gained entry via the designated pancyprian examinations, so they wouldn’t be forced to sit the year out.
When it became evident that their number was very small, the university’s top decision-making bodies decided to extend the scope of the semester to cover all eligible graduates who qualified based on international exam results – typically, private-school leavers.
The debate over whether, and to what extent, alternative paths leading to studies at Cyprus’ public universities should become available has been raging for nearly a decade.
A compromise government bill capped alternative entry – via grades in international exams – at 3 per cent, but the regulations required for the law to take effect have yet to be presented to parliament.
The university argues that the released conscripts would not technically be students but would simply be allowed to take the courses and receive the credits, which, if the law precludes them from continuing at the UCy, they would then be able to ‘carry’ to another university in Europe.
High-school teacher union chief Demetris Taliadoros deemed the move an attempt by the UCy at “creating a fait-accompli” for the passing of regulations as-yet unseen.
Private-school parents’ association chief Nicos Shalis said detractors attitude was “shallow-hearted”, as they sought to deny children of equal opportunities in education.