Education Minister Costas Kadis said on Wednesday his ministry has a proposal with the legal service for a long-term solution to accommodating students from private schools at the University of Cyprus (UCy) without impacting those from public schools.
Kadis’ comment came a day after news that the legal services had judged as legitimate the procedures and rules of the university allowing applications from undergraduate-level candidates who have passed international examinations, allowing school leavers from private schools to study at the institution.
UCy has been accepting transfer applications for the winter semester 2017 to 2018 since last Monday and will continue to do so until August 25. Under the current regime, the only path to get into UCy available to Cypriot school-leavers was the Pancyprian exams, which are based on the curriculum taught at public schools. Although private-school pupils have the option of sitting the Pancyprian exams, they are taught a different syllabus and require after-school lessons to prepare for them.
A previous attempt by UCy to allow private school students who had been accepted at universities abroad to transfer to the university in Cyprus, was shot down both by Kadis and by the legal service. Secondary-school teachers’ union Oelmek was also up in arms about the process.
In a statement on Tuesday, the university said that changes to its internal legal regulation that would allow the scheme to operate had been backed by the legal service and were consistent with the principle of equality, allowing the institution to enrol students without barriers and unfavourable discrimination.
Kadis said on Wednesday he had only been informed of the legal opinion on Tuesday, but he believes this does not constitute a suitable long-term solution.
He said the legal advisers and representatives of UCy had a meeting with the legal service in the presence of officials from his ministry to see how the university regulations could be made lawful in a way that would allow the plan to work.
He said UCy is allowed to issue regulations for managing its internal affairs, “and since these regulations are in fact harmonised with legislation, we do not see any problems at all”.
“However, I consider that these regulations do not solve the wider problem of facilitating the access of children from private schools to Cypriot universities, since securing a position through this process that has passed muster is difficult and complex and for this purpose the ministry, in co-operation with public universities, will shortly submit to the House of Representatives its proposal for a definitive solution to this problem,” Kadis added.
He also said that the approach to be followed was that, alongside the Pancyprian examinations, there should be an alternative process that treats equally all pupils of either public or private schools and allows the possibility of the latter enrolling in an alternative way.
“We hope that this proposal, which is at the legal service, will be accepted by the House and that it will not have any negative impact either on our schools or the Pancyprian exams,” he added.
Meanwhile, Oelmek, which believes the entire move means giving preferential treatment to private-school students, will meet on August 31 to discuss the latest developments.
Children from private schools have the right to take the Pancyprian exams, it argues, and has called the UCy scheme “admission to the universities through the back door” that puts the irreproachability of the Pancyprian exams at risk.