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Unions should have no right to meddle in university policy

UCy's campus

Some 18 months ago, when the University of Cyprus (UCy) announced that it would accept some students based on their results in international exams there was a big fuss from teaching unions and political parties which claimed, quite foolishly, that this would destroy public education. The House education committee held several meetings to discuss this outrage, education minister Costas Kadis tried to mediate, and the attorney-general’s opinion was sought.

The attorney-general advised that the decision was not legally sound and the university abandoned the plan. It was a victory for the forces of reaction as no students from private schools were admitted that year. Kadis, meanwhile, said his ministry would draft regulations that would govern admission into public universities. These regulations did not materialise, but the UCy Senate amended its own regulations and procedures in a way that would allow it to accept students who had not sat the Pancyprian entry exams. The Senate unanimously backed the amendments, which were endorsed by the University Council.

On August 1, UCy announced that it would be accepting ‘transfer applications’ from students who had sat international exams such as IB and GCSEs and secured a place at foreign universities for the 2017-18 academic year. In other words, the university was accepting ‘transfer’ rather than ‘admission’ applications. This provoked an angry reaction from Akel and the teaching unions. On Tuesday, it was announced that the attorney-general’s office had given the green light to the university’s new procedures, which were judged lawful.

Kadis also waded in on Wednesday, saying that while the university was entitled to issue regulations for managing its internal affairs, “these regulations do not solve the wider problem of facilitating the access of children from private schools to Cypriot universities”. The ministry was to submit to the legislature its proposal for a “definitive solution to this problem”, said Kadis, avoiding explaining why it had taken so long to do so.

The decision of the university has obviously spurred the ministry into action. It would probably have done nothing about the matter in order to keep the teaching unions happy, with presidential elections only a few months away. One union, Oelmek, has already announced a meeting for next week to decide what it would do, as if the university’s admissions policy is any of its business. In what country in the world do teaching unions have a say in a university’s admissions policy?

If the minister was not afraid of the teaching unions he would have made this point a long time ago, making it clear that the university is an independent, autonomous institution that is perfectly entitled to manage its affairs. This is Cyprus however and it would be no surprise if Kadis consults the unions, before finalising his ‘definitive solution’, in the name of consensus.

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